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From AJR,   August/September 2008  issue

An AJR Homecoming   

Jennifer Dorroh is AJR's new managing editor.


By Rem Rieder
Rem Rieder (rrieder@ajr.umd.edu) is AJR's editor and senior vice president.      

You never print the good news.

It's a lament editors have heard for years from readers overwhelmed by tales of tragedy, mayhem and heartbreak.

So we'll accentuate the positive. We'll take a break from the relentless litany of cutbacks and downsizing, layoffs and buyouts as the traditional media struggle to adapt to the digital age.

Here's the deal: J-Do is back in town, succeeding the wonderful Rachel Smolkin as AJR's managing editor.

Jennifer Dorroh, known as J-Do to her legion of adoring fans, was a star intern at AJR in the fall of 2000 and the summer of 2001 while she was in the master's program at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. She quickly proved to be an excellent young journalist. She was smart, talented, diligent and committed. And she had the kind of personality that made the place better anytime she showed up.

In the intervening years, Jen freelanced from such far-flung locales as Mexico and Slovenia. But she never left the AJR family, contributing numerous pieces to the magazine. She even came back from Mexico for a month to work with Charles Layton on one of AJR's tallies of the nation's Statehouse reporters.

And as the years passed, one thing became clear: Her work kept getting more and more sophisticated.

So I'm delighted to have her back in the line-up. I know there are those who will argue, with much justification, that a year is too short a period of mourning over Rachel's departure for USA Today. But when a J-Do appears on the free-agent market, you just don't hesitate.

Jen's return was a popular development at the J-school. When I said to Assistant Dean Steve Crane, "You liked J-Do, right?" he looked at me incredulously and replied, "What's not to like?"

Besides helping me run the magazine, Jen will be doing a lot of writing, focusing, although not exclusively, on the rapid evolution of the news media. She'll also play a big role in creating and overseeing AJR's reinvigorated Web site (ajr.org).

As an ex-AJR intern, Jen is part of a rich tradition. One of the countless pleasures I've experienced running this magazine for the past 16-and-a-half years has been working with so many terrific young people.

I've talked for a long time about the mythical AJR Intern Hall of Fame. So far it only exists in my fevered brain. But I'm sure that someday we'll build a bricks-and-mortar version, perhaps as a complement to the Newseum.

Interns play a vital role at AJR. They fact-check everything, write pieces for the front of the book and do research for the writers. And as we've reduced the staff over the years, they function as the magazine's infrastructure. Jen is the fifth former intern to return as a staffer, a number that is remarkable given the Tiny Archibald size of the staff. Many more have become lifetime friends.

Way back in 1992, Suzan "Moon" Revah was the first star AJR intern of the Rieder era. Suz went to The New Republic for some seasoning, then returned for a three-year stint editing at AJR. Another excellent intern, the late Art Kramer, bestowed upon her the nickname that stuck: "La Suz."

After Suz followed her dream and moved to San Francisco, she hung out quite a bit with two other stellar intern alums, David Allan and Sinead O'Brien, as well as my daughter, Amanda. It was a veritable AJR West.

Next to join the pantheon was Deb Puchalla (then known as Deb Durocher), who followed Suz to The New Republic and succeeded her at AJR. Now Deb is a big hitter in the Martha Stewart empire: She's editor in chief of the popular magazine Everyday Food. But she still gives everything that appears in AJR the next-to-last read. We're awfully glad (and lucky) that she does: She's a superb editor and proofreader.

Kelly Heyboer, Deb's contemporary at AJR, went on to become a major contributor to the magazine for years while working at Newark's Star-Ledger.

The list goes on and on. Three alums Kathy "Kathryn the Great" Wenner, Kim Hart and Emily Yahr are at the Washington Post. Keri "Kerry Kittles" Mattox runs her own communications business in Philadelphia. Sarah Schaffer is editor in chief at Philadelphia Style magazine. Raechal "New Rach" Leone is staking out a career in new media on the Left Coast. Jessica Meyers is an intern at the Dallas Morning News. Bridget Gutierrez works for the Newseum.

Kevin Rector was dazzling as a full-time intern last spring. With plenty of time to go with the talent, he filled up the magazine and the Web site with topflight stories. Not long ago I was singing his praises at a meeting of the J-school's Board of Visitors. I acknowledged that I knew hiring had gone out of fashion, but said that if it ever came back into vogue, someone should snap up Kevin. Apparently Baltimore Sun Editor Tim Franklin, a board member, was paying attention. Kevin is now a Sun intern.

So welcome back, Jen, a fine embodiment of that tradition. The world looks a lot brighter now that you're back in the house.