Janine's Journal: Of Milestones and Moments

Sometimes, milestones happen and other times we make them happen. Now comes a difficult, yet happy milestone for managing editor Janine Pumilia.

There are milestones that just happen and there are moments we choose to make happen. The choices are often difficult. It seems I’ve shared most of the milestones of my life with you, either through this magazine or in local publications before it, so here’s another one.
For 13 years, I’ve been enormously privileged to lead the editorial effort of this publication. What began as one skinny little magazine in fall 2004 has grown to stacks of fat issues, each representing the contributions of many, many people.
Editors leave their sensibilities on every page, in an invisible web of decisions large and small. The less a reader thinks about the mechanics of a magazine, the better. Text and photo errors interrupt a reader’s enjoyment in the same way that a bright light in a movie theater distracts from a film.
Bill Hughes had a vision for an uplifting, all-local magazine that would shine a light on what’s good in our region. Coming from the newspaper business, I shared his desire to balance the public’s daily dose of necessary-but-dark news with a publication full of light. After all, light is also part of our region’s truth. With the help of many talented folks, we brought that vision to life.
When we started, Bill and Lisa Hughes and I had other full-time jobs. The three of us worked on Northwest Quarterly Magazine (NWQ) nights, weekends and whenever we could. Bill was selling real estate. Lisa worked for a local accounting firm. I was editing national trade magazines.
This magazine was an opportunity I wasn’t going to pass up, but it couldn’t have come at a busier time in my personal life.
Our first NWQ printed in the same autumn that husband Gary and I married, combined our families, started our four kids in new schools/colleges, sold our previous homes and moved into a house in the woods just outside Rockford. Gary had recently been appointed an associate judge in the 17th judicial circuit, in felony court. He was very good at it, but those years were stressful. (A few years ago we talked him into retiring. The following week, he started a law firm with his sons.)
Thanks to a supportive base of advertisers, and a lot of worn shoe leather on Bill’s part – and later on the part of his three sons, Brent, Brad and Brian – the magazine grew in size and frequency. Our “quarterly” comes out six times a year.
After the first few years, we started a second NWQ in the Chicago suburbs. Later, we added Smart Living Weekly, which Bill designed to give local small businesses affordable blanket-market coverage 50 weeks of the year.
We’ve seen more than a few local magazines start up and close down, over the past 13 years, while we expanded during a recession. Our slim staff produces big results.
Also during the past 13 years, Gary and I coped with much caregiving and loss as we grieved five close family members. The Hughes family endured a similar string of losses. This is all part of life for people in the “sandwich generation.” But the magazines always went to the printer more/less on schedule.
There’s no way I could have juggled everything, during these busy years, had Bill and Lisa not given me a long, flexible leash. I’ve written and edited from hospital and nursing home waiting rooms, our kids’ dorm rooms, and my mom’s bedside during the last year of her life.
A few years ago, I knew I needed some relief from managing all of these publications, but you don’t turn over “the baby” to just anyone. I was extremely fortunate to have a terrific protege in Chris Linden, who started working here as a summer intern many moons ago. I confidently handed him the Executive Editor reins, which freed me to focus on producing a great Northwest Quarterly magazine for the Rockford area and a strong Smart Living Weekly. Chris does a terrific job and is just a great person. I thought to myself then, “We couldn’t get that lucky again, could we?”
I remained very busy producing five 274-page magazines and 50 smaller ones per year. But during that time, I began to grow a little jealous of my Gary, who now wakes up each morning free to chart the destiny of his day. In our 13 years of marriage, we’ve never been able to do that together, except during vacations.
We have a trip coming up this fall and a crazy thought took root in my head. Wouldn’t it be nice to take our time getting there, driving and seeing parts of America along the way, rather than catching flights and rushing back to work?
Other thoughts followed.
Wouldn’t it be nice to spend time with the friends and relatives I’ve so neglected? And to tackle that around-the-house “to do” list that’s grown longer than Tolstoy’s “War and Peace?” And to be more help with our (soon to be two!) grandchildren? Most of all, I just want to spend more time with the wonderful man I married 13 years ago.
Some of you middle-agers well understand the yin and yang of this moment I’m describing. We want to be needed and involved and we fear relinquishing what we’ve built. But we also want to jump off the frenzied merry-go-round and go discover something new in the world – and perhaps even something new inside ourselves. For me, this is that moment.
For a second time, I feel very lucky to hand over reins to someone I trust. Lindsey Gapen was, I feel sure, sent to us, like Chris Linden, by providence.
Since joining our team a few years ago, Lindsey has proven she possesses that rare combination of sharp intelligence, easy talent, strong work ethic, team attitude, deep kindness and humility. And humility matters. A good editor should be more like a public servant than a prima donna. That’s Lindsey.
A native of Naperville, with a Journalism/Anthropology B.A. from UW-Madison, Lindsey has adopted Rockford as her new home with gusto. She views our region with the fresh eyes of one unencumbered by decades of local pessimism. She sees what’s good here and engages with it. She’s made friends, found ways to help the community – including mentoring high-schoolers through her church – plays sports on local leagues and makes a point of enjoying our region’s beauty.
I adore Lindsey and feel sure you will, too, as she becomes the buck-stops-here managing editor for our Rockford-area NWQ.
Lindsey will have lots of support from Executive Editor Chris Linden and our newest, very capable editor, Jermaine Pigee, who will be promoted to assistant managing editor. Jermaine came to us in 2016 after working as a newspaper reporter, having earned his journalism degree from NIU in 2007. Congratulations to both of these talented, hardworking young people!
Thank you for being such an affirming readership over the years. You’ve brought us wonderful ideas, written kind notes, encouraged advertisers to support us, taken time to deliver our magazine to shut-ins and other friends. Northwest Quarterly readers are the very best kind of people.
I’ll contribute to NWQ for as long as Bill and Lisa will have me, and I’ll still oversee Smart Living Weekly. But it will no longer be my sensibilities covering each of these NWQ pages with that invisible, protective web. And that’s just fine.
I’m placing “the baby” into the caring, energetic young hands of Chris, Lindsey and Jermaine so that I can go exploring with my best sweetheart. (We’ve already signed up for a Tai Chi class together. Wish me luck on that. I don’t even know what it is).
I’ll let you know what we discover on the other side of the merry-go-round