Melinda Welsh: One person's tough love makes all the difference

Jeff vonKaenel

As soon as we are born, it is certain we will die. Our life falls between these two points. That is the subject matter of SN&R founding editor Melinda Welsh's essay, found here in this week's issue. Diagnosed with terminal cancer, she asks herself, “Now what?”

Melinda’s answer is not surprising to those of us who know and love her. She plans to live life fully engaged, fully present, until she cannot. And I know I speak for many of her colleagues when I say, “We have been so blessed to be part of that life.”

I am a newspaper publisher, or put more simply, I am a salesperson—who reads. When I look back on my career, there are two times I closed a deal that changed my life forever. The first was in 1977, when I persuaded my colleague (now wife), Deborah Redmond, to go out with me. The second was in 1988, when I convinced Melinda to be the founding editor at the startup SN&R.

The three of us had key roles at the paper. My job was finding money. Deborah kept everything running smoothly. And Melinda focused on making her editorial vision a reality. And what a vision. She was known to describe it as tough love for Sacramento. Tough love is not boosterism and it is not cynical. It is criticism mixed with caring, saying, “You can do better.”

When we started the paper in April 1989, Sacramento was still a blank slate, struggling to find its identity. But there was a lot here. It just needed to be found, to be written about, to be developed. It needed tough love. It needed Melinda.

As our editor, she was fully engaged in telling the stories that helped our readers understand what Sacramento was, and what it could be. She wasn’t afraid to expose Sacramento’s flaws and corruption, but was happy to report when this city got it right. She had Sacramento’s back, and knew we could always do better.

The breadth of coverage under Melinda’s editorial leadership has been wide, varying from investigative pieces to in-depth reporting about all facets of our community and extensive entertainment coverage. Under her direction, we began traditions such as the Sacramento Area Music Awards (Sammies), along with our Best of Sacramento and Summer Guide issues that continue to this day.

Melinda also organized several national projects, most recently the Letters to the Future project, which published in more than 40 newspapers and websites nationwide last month.

Over the last 26 years, every week the SN&R has come out with a new edition inspired by Melinda’s vision. Approximately 75 million copies of our paper have landed in the hands of our readers, helping to start conversations, illuminate the darker corners of our city and shine a spotlight on Sacramento’s diverse and developing cultural scenes.

Melinda is a beautiful example of how one person can truly make a difference. At the end of her essay, Melinda says she takes solace in the idea that she will live on in the hearts of those who love her most.

But those of us who’ve worked with her at SN&R know she will live on in so many more ways, through the small and big changes she has helped create in this city, and at our paper. And I’m excited for her next project, her next cover story, her next words in SN&R.

Thank you, Melinda, for everything.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.