BY MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — A Record-Eagle journalist who saw the newspaper and the communities it serves through some of their most significant changes has retired after more than 35 years.
Associate Editor Loraine Anderson, 65, leaves her mark on the paper that was her home for more than half her life.
Anderson graduated from Michigan State University in 1972, after an internship with a German publisher. She began her journalism career that year at the Roscommon Herald-News. From 1974 to 1977 she was a reporter and editor for the Antrim County News in Bellaire.
She joined the Record-Eagle staff in 1978 as a police, courts and mental health reporter and covered Grand Traverse County from 1982 to 1984. She wrote on some of the thorniest and most important issues of the day, and contributed to ground-breaking and award-winning series on child sexual abuse, poverty, the Traverse City State Hospital, drunk driving, tribal fishing rights, land use and the Grand Traverse Watershed.
She also covered the 1979 trial of Jeanette Smith, one of the first women in Michigan to use the “battered wife” defense in a domestic murder trial. Smith was later acquitted of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of her estranged husband.
Anderson became city editor in 1984 and Associate Editor in 2012. She also held positions as regional editor and photo manager. During her tenure she saw significant changes at the Record-Eagle including its switch from an evening paper to a morning paper, its creation of a Sunday paper and an online edition, and its expansion to a regional paper.
Anderson’s curiosity and passion for learning led her to delve deep into the region’s history. She spent nearly a year researching and writing a 40-page supplement as part of the Record-Eagle’s 150th Anniversary History Project, for which the paper won three first place awards for a special section and public service from the Associated Press and the Michigan Press Association. Another supplement and dozens of historical stories followed in 2009.
Leelanau County historian Laura Quackenbush said Anderson worked “quietly and consistently” to be a respected voice in the community and said her articles brought the region’s cultures, including Native Americans, and their stories to the public eye with “great sensitivity.”
“She and I have been friends and colleagues because of our mutual interest in region and local history,” Quackenbush said. “One of those things we have in common is the philosophy that it’s important for people who live here to understand the community in terms of what has happened before. It helps us understand our place in time and build resources. We share that deep understanding of the wealth and meaning that it brings to everybody’s existence and we both care very much about the land and all the resources of the area.
“She’s a listener and she listens closely to the stories and tries to be objective and tries to understand people and what they say and what they’ve done in historical context. That’s important because sometimes we tend to make judgments without historical context,” Quackenbush said.
Gregg Smith, former owner and publisher of the Antrim County News, calls Anderson a fierce and passionate advocate for community journalism who had a “wonderful way” of identifying with the people and events she was covering.
“When you work for The New York Times, you’re anonymous for the most part,” said Smith, now owner of the Traverse City communications and marketing firm Lawton Gallagher Group. “But when you work in Bellaire or Traverse City, the people you write about you might be sitting across from in a coffee klatch. That didn’t taint her objectivity. She was always fair and objective and I think people respected that and admired her for it. They also knew that (what they told her off the record) would remain confidential forever. They trusted her for it.”
“Loraine is what community journalism is all about,” said Marsha Smith, executive director of Rotary Charities, who praised Anderson for her steady, even and balanced approach. “She set the standard. She’s local, relevant, knowledgeable and accessible, and she’s really invested in the community.
“Loraine came from the premise of assuming people had the best intentions. She did not assume every leader operated from a basis of personal gain. But she asked good questions, she dug deep.”
Anderson touched readers with her reflective column, which often focused on themes of harmony and diversity. Through her column she also shared important issues in her own life, including her struggle with breast cancer, the final stages of her mother’s life, and her decision to come out as a lesbian at a time when gay people across the country were experiencing heightened violence.
“It must have been difficult to be a (gay) reporter and an editor at a newspaper when these issues were coming to the forefront,” said Traverse City mayor pro-tem Jim Carruthers, at the time a lead activist for a proposed law that would ban discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgenders in the city. “She quietly and respectfully and calmly dealt with it. She managed to separate herself from her personal life to do what she had to do professionally, and still have a personal life.”
Anderson will continue to write her monthly column for the Record-Eagle and to contribute occasional historical stories. Meanwhile she intends to follow her great-great-grandfather’s Civil War path with the 23rd Regiment Michigan Volunteer Infantry under Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman.