At 'The Sacramento Bee,' It's Often a Family Affair

By: Joe Strupp It's not unusual for love to blossom in newsrooms. The odd hours, close working conditions and mutual employment interest have sparked many a romance, and marriage (and sometimes divorce), in between deadlines and headlines. But The Sacramento Bee may top them all, with nine couples currently married within its newsroom ranks. With a news staff of about 175 people, having 18 of them married to someone else on staff means more than 10 percent of the newsroom is hitched to another newsie.

"We don't have a policy against dating, and it has never surprised me," says Managing Editor Joyce Terhaar, who says she met her husband, Geoff Long, when both worked at The Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald (he now works for the California Assembly). "They all bring different talents to the party."

The Bee couples say their shared work experience makes for more good than bad. Some say they can vent about the business to someone who knows it as well as they do, while others say it is often tough to leave things at the office. And when cutbacks hit, these duos get twice the salary cuts, pension freezes and, sometimes, layoffs.

"It works for us, but I don't think it would work for a lot of people," says Marjie Lundstrom, an investigative reporter who is married to Sam Stanton, a senior writer. "It hasn't been too much togetherness, because we have other outside interests that put us into other things." But when they work on a story together, which has happened a few times, it can be helpful, she says. "Where else can you find that compatibility?" Lundstrom adds, noting a recent project that involved investigating the deaths of children who were under child protective services. "It was helpful to have a husband share that burden because it was a tough story."

"We like each other, so it's good," jokes Online Editor Brian Blomster, who met his wife, Rita (entertainment editor), when the two were students at Sacramento State University, and married in 1987. He has spent 14 years at the Bee in two stints, the most recent since 2002. "We bump into each other once or twice a day and take time out to take a break together usually," he adds, noting marital battles can be tough to hold back. "I came in here a couple of times when Rita wanted to kill me, but she kept it under wraps."

Along with those named, the married couples in the Bee's newsroom include:

Deborah Anderluh, city editor, and Andy Furillo, senior writer courts reporter.

Linda Gonzales, senior online editor, and Gary Reed, forum editor.

Renee Byer, senior photographer, and Paul Kitagaki, senior photographer.

Leigh Grogan, page designer, and Mark Morris, director of multimedia.

Sue Ballenger, designer, and Ken Campbell, copy editor.

Stuart Leavenworth, editorial page editor, and Micaela Massimino, copy editor/assigning editor.

Grogan and Morris met at the Bee in 1989, and were married 17 years ago. Grogan explains, "I think we complement each other; I am sort of wound tight, and he is more laid-back. We help each other, but it is stressful because of the nature of the business ? and we have both done it for a long time."

Ballenger and Campbell also met at the Bee, when both worked Sundays back in the early '90s. They married in 1995. "It has helped both of us in that he understands if I have a problem," says Ballenger, a 19-year Bee veteran. "But we have figured out when we need to stop [talking shop]."

In the case of Susan Ferriss (a senior writer) and Ricardo Sandoval (assistant city editor), working in the same place has become almost a tradition. They met while working at The Examiner in San Francisco between 1992 and 1997, then later were competitors in Mexico City ? she for Cox Newspapers, he for the San Jose Mercury News. "We had to work on sort of an honor system a few times," she recalls about the Mexico situation. "Keep things confidential. On breaking stories, you would end up in the same place."

Their time in Mexico also resulted in a book collaboration when they co-wrote The Fight in the Fields (Mariner Books, 1998), about farmworker leader C?sar Ch?vez. They landed at the Bee at the same time just three years ago.

"It can be difficult when you think about movement and job futures," she admits. "Getting jobs in the same place is difficult."

All of these couples must deal with the current state of the industry, which meant a 6% salary cut for Bee employees earlier this year. They've also had to brace for each round of layoffs that have hit the paper. "We have both lost colleagues to the cutbacks and we both get impacted by cuts," says Grogan. "We tend to gravitate toward discussing it, but we try to avoid fights." Brian Blomster agrees: "It was really tough because we took a double hit," he says of the salary reduction. "Waiting to see who is going to get [laid off] is tough, because that goes home with you."

This story first appeared in E&P's October print edition.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here