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Losing an Editor

It's an article of faith in the newspaper trade that every writer needs an editor, and good editors are few and far between. Fewer still are those who combine the eagle-eyed skills of the best wordsmiths with the human-relations talent of a great manager. Good editors also need to understand the world at large, and demonstrate an ability to put information in context so that their news judgments are sound. It's a rare person who puts together those three traits.

Happily for the Washington Post's news obits staff, we've had such an editor for the past four and a half years. Her mug is not on top of this blog because, like many great editors, she is self-effacing. But anyone who's read the our obits in the last few years knows the byline and impact of Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb.

Yvonne is much admired at the Post, where she's worked for the past 22 years. One of the genuinely nice people in the newsroom, she's edited many great reporters, often early in their careers. She's been an informal counselor to dozens of colleagues who find themselves caught in the crosshairs of personal crisis. Her kind and thoughtful demeanor has defused countless tense situations with callers upset about one thing or another. But she also has a finely tuned humbug detector -- Yvonne belongs to the "trust, but verify" school of editing.

She came to obituaries because of her interest in people and history, hired half of the current staff, and has greatly improved our coverage of "regular" people, who had sometimes been overlooked in favor of those better known to the world. She previously had been director of training for the then-900 person newsroom, assistant metropolitan editor, an assistant city editor for law enforcement and courts coverage and editor of the District Extra weekly.

She's one of about 120 people who have taken a buyout this year, and today is her last day here. She's on the young end of the buyout crowd and plans to complete several books she's been working on, as well as investigate other opportunities after a well-deserved break. Her husband, two adult children and extended family will see more of her now but as for her staff, we're mourning our loss.

By Patricia Sullivan |  August 28, 2008; 6:00 PM ET
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Bon Voyage, Yvonne !!

Posted by: George Anderson | August 30, 2008 10:20 AM

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