Goodbyes are always hard and too sudden, and though she doesn’t leave us for good until this Friday, the Baltimore Guide already misses Jenn Franz.
Jenn has worked at the Guide for almost 16 years, making her by far the longest-serving member of our staff in the office today. Officially the Art Director and Web master, she is really the go-to person for all questions that come up in the office—whether sales-, editorial-, or computer-related. She could be found helping a reporter unfreeze a computer one minute, and coaching one of the sales staff on a new strategy the next.
Always smiling, patient, and even-keeled, it was Jenn’s character as much as her knowledge and experience that thrust her into her natural leadership role.
Jenn began her professional life at the Avenue News in Essex. When that paper launched the Bay News, she moved to Edgewood. When the Bay News closed, she went to the Avenue’s Perry Hall office.
There she met Don Dohler, editor at the time.
“He was my mentor,” says Jenn.
(Dohler, who passed away in 2006 as editor of the Times Herald, is possibly more well-known for his low-budget sci-fi and horror films—The Alien Factor, The Galaxy Invader, Nightbeast—than for his journalism.)
Soon after meeting, Dohler and Jenn decided to start their own newspaper, the Journal Northeast of Perry Hall.
“It was a colossal failure, and it was also a great learning experience about the newspaper business,” says Jenn, explaining that the advertising revenue—the lifeblood of many newspapers—just wasn’t there.
What might not have been good for her was a blessing for the Guide, however. Homestead Publishing, which had published both the Guide and the Journal Northeast, was the connection. Jim Quimby, Operations Director of The Aegis, another Homestead paper, recommended that the Guide hire Jenn as a graphic designer.
“Honestly, graphics was my weakest subject in school,” says Jenn, who majored in communications with a concentration on advertising. “I wanted to go to an agency and do the copy editing and campaigns. Ultimately, I went to the newspaper business. Ink gets in your blood, I guess.”
Jenn didn’t become the Baltimore Guide’s resident guru overnight. One big change in her responsibilities occurred in 2004, when the Guide ditched manual cut-and-paste production for digital layout. While advertising sales staff had previously cut and pasted their own ads, and editorial staff had done the same with their text and photos, all digital production responsibilities were now on one person’s shoulders—Jenn’s.
Later, her responsibilities grew again when she took on the Guide’s social media and Web presence.
With Jenn on board, the Guide has never failed to publish a paper on Wednesday.
“We’ve somehow always got the paper out, whether it’s a hurricane, or the flu hit the office, or the earthquake,” she says.
Jenn says she will miss both the newspaper business itself, and the people in it.
“I’ll remember, most of all, the amazing people I’ve worked with,” she says, “the Guide staff as well as the advertisers. I’ll remember how much I’ve learned and grown from the experience I’ve had at this place.”
Jenn starts her new job as marketing production supervisor of the Towson Public Library next month. Please join us in wishing her all the best.
“I am very happy for her because this is a positive move in her career path,” says Guide publisher Ed Hoffman. “I am also sad because we will be missing a talented and dedicated person. She is also a friend and very cooperative person to work with. She will be missed by readers, advertisers, and many other people who have done business with the Guide over the years.”
She’ll also be missed by all of us staff members who are constantly asking her questions. Who will we ask now?
“Fly, little birdies, fly!” jokes Jenn.