A 20-year anniversary carries a traditional gift of china, and a modern gift of glass, according to Hallmark’s web site.
But as Greektown resident Jacqueline Watts celebrates two decades on the job, she continues to enjoy the production of paper. Specifically, the Baltimore Guide, her employer.
Watts arrived at the Guide in 1990, working as a production manager, reporter and photographer, one of the first hires of Richard Sandza, the publisher of the paper in those days. When then-editor John Cain announced his run for City Council in 1991, she moved to the position of interim editor. Cain’s candidacy was successful, and when he moved to City Hall, Watts moved permanently into the editor’s office.
She has been there ever since.
Born an Army brat in Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, she is the youngest of three children. Her siblings live in California. As a member of a military family, she attended a succession of schools in locations as varied as in Porton Down, Wiltshire, U.K. and on bases in remote proving grounds in Utah and Arizona. Ultimately, she majored in drama at San Diego State University, and“= graduated with honors and distinction in 1974.
Watts originally worked in regional theater from 1976-1984 and in professional theater in New York from 1977-1982. In 1983, she began working as a stringer for Baltimore Magazine, a position she held for one year. She also wrote and produced community newsletters through 1989.
At the Baltimore Guide, she said, she became increasingly interested in community journalism, focusing on the people, places and events that give neighborhoods their unique character. She also became involved in a number of non-profit community associations, including the Friends of Patterson Park, using newspaper coverage to call attention to the improvements there. She was also instrumental in the 13-year-long development, planning and opening of the Southeast Anchor Library in Highlandtown.
“That is my proudest accomplishment, personal or professional,” she says of her collaboration with the Enoch Pratt Free Library. I made many good friends during that process.”
She has garnered awards and recognition for her work, being recognized for news reporting by the Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Press Association in 1996, and being named Baltimore’s Best Journalist by the City Paper in 2009. She has won additional awards through the years for newswriting and for headlines. In 2010, the Fells Point Community Organization honored her with one of its “For All You Do” trophies last winter. (The other recipient was Councilman Jim Kraft, D-1). In 2010, she also received an official commendation from Sen. Barbara Mikulski, honoring her 20 years of service to the community.
The Guide has evolved through the years, changing publishers and enlarging its focus to take in events outside of the community. Watts has helped the paper meet new challenges, and says she is enjoying covering the larger issues, as well as noting the way those larger issues affect people at the neighborhood level.
“People are interested in how larger events affect them in their community,, on their block,” she said. “That’s what The Guide is about.”