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A farewell to Kathryn Franke, Managing Editor

Kelly Conroy Salomon
MSM C’12, MBA C’13

How an ordinary run and an amazing girl changed
 the course of the Emmitsburg News-Journal

A newspaper is a funny thing. Who are the faces behind the articles? Who are the people that make each edition happen?

Readers can begin to understand some of the views of the writers by reading their monthly columns, but this only scratches the surface. Readers in a small town like Emmitsburg can meet the managing staff of a paper, but there’s still a lot of mystery as to what happens "behind the scenes."

In the case of the Emmitsburg News-Journal, there’s one person who has been largely responsible for the growing success of the paper. And she is a person of outstanding character.

Kathryn Franke has spent the last several years working in various capacities for the Emmitsburg News-Journal, from serving as the Arts Writer to the Assistant Editor to the Managing Editor, all during her time as a student at Mount St. Mary’s University.

Kathryn earned undergraduate degrees in Fine Arts and Communications, and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the Mount.

In the upcoming weeks, Kathryn will begin a full-time marketing position in Annapolis, Maryland, and will end her work with the Emmitsburg News-Journal.

The entire staff of the Emmitsburg News-Journal wishes Kathryn all the best. Kathryn will be sorely missed, but she has created a standard of excellence for the paper that will allow it to not only continue, but to flourish…

And it’s all thanks to one ordinary run on a fall day in Emmitsburg.

Megan Kinsella Quaranta tells the story best:

Kathryn and I were teammates on the Mount's cross country team. One day during our freshman year, we went on a long run behind the athletic complex at the Mount. We were running past a beautiful little farmhouse when all of a sudden a man with a camera came running down the driveway toward us. "Excuse me," he said, "but can I take a picture of you running?" Kathryn and I nervously giggled, and continued running, pretending we hadn't heard him. He then yelled after us, "Do you want your picture to be on the front page of the newspaper?" Needless to say, this stopped us in our tracks. We turned around, and he explained to us that he was Mike Hillman, the Editor of the Emmitsburg News-Journal. Mike said that he wanted to highlight Mount athletes and their achievements, and wanted to use a photo of us running in the paper. At the same time, his wife walked out of the house, smiled and waved at us. Kathryn and I looked at each other, giggled again, and in unison said, "Sure!" We spent a couple minutes creating some candid running photos, and then Mike pulled out a pen and paper to get our names. As we chatted, he asked us what we were studying at the Mount. As freshman, we weren’t sure about our majors yet, but English and Communications somehow spurted out of our mouths. Mike excitedly asked us, "How would you like a job writing for the paper every month?" We couldn't believe our ears. All we did was go out for a routine run, and we came back with jobs?

Yes, an ordinary cross-country run turned into jobs for Megan and Kathryn, but it became even more than that over the years.

"I saw the Mount as a vast untapped resource of exceptional writing talent, but try as I might, I had been unable to tap into that talent pool," said Hillman. "So, when I saw the girls running, I figured I had nothing to lose by using the pretext of taking their photo with the hopes that they may talk to me and I could find out if they were interested in writing for the paper."

"They might have thought I was a ‘wacko’ at first," said Hillman. "But it turned out for the best."

"There was something special happening [on that fall day]," said Megan. "And looking back over the past six years, I would say there was definitely some Divine Intervention going on."

Standing in the middle of the road, Hillman, Megan, and Kathryn quickly discussed their job positions. Megan wanted to write about sports, and Kathryn wanted to write about the arts.

"I was OK with the Sports Column," said Hillman, "But to be honest, an Arts Column didn’t do much for me – but as I would soon learn, Kathryn’s idea was a good one, and her column quickly took off."

In her Arts column, Kathryn wrote about the Wednesdays at the Fountain summer concert series at the Mount, the "Rest Fest" craft festival, and music concerts held at Crumland Farms Festival Ground in Frederick, Md., local Shakespeare plays, the martial arts, and so much more!

Nicole Jones, one of many Emmitsburg News-Journal student writers, shared that Kathryn’s expertise in the arts has always been obvious, especially during the study abroad trip that she and Kathryn took to Austria.

Jones said, "…[A]t the beginning of the trip, [Kathryn and I] made it a habit to go for a walk together with our cameras up and down the neighborhood after breakfast. [Kathryn] could capture anything with that camera and make it look good. I admire that. I have a nice camera too, but a nice camera does not a photographer make."

"Kathryn just has this natural ability to find beauty in the world," said Jones.

One of the topics that Kathryn covered in her Arts column was her own experience hosting a national juried art show at the Mount. Together with another classmate, Kathryn put on a show entitled, "The Natural World: A Postmodern Perspective" for her Senior Honors Project. The show featured a "variety of art inspired by the natural world that draws attention to the beauty of nature and its relevance to our lives, both socially and artistically," according to one of Kathryn’s articles in the Emmitsburg News-Journal.

Kathryn and her classmate received entries from artists across the country for their juried art show. Besides selecting artwork, Kathryn also stated in the Emmitsburg News-Journal that she learned about "event planning, criticism, collaborative design, printing and publication, graphic and web design, budgeting, marketing, journalism, social media, networking, and interpersonal communication," throughout the project.

The show turned out to be a great success, and Emmitsburg News-Journal readers were included in the process—from start to finish— through Kathryn’s Art column.

During Kathryn’s time as the Arts columnist, she also began to tackle some of the longstanding production and quality issues of the Emmitsburg News-Journal. When Kathryn was officially named the Assistant Editor, the transition was easy.

One of Kathryn’s most important tasks as Assistant Editor was to fix the persistent grammar issues in the paper.

Before Kathryn took over, Mike Hillman would bring $20 bills to meetings with the Mount writers for the Emmitsburg News-Journal. Then he would challenge them to find a glaring mistake in the already-printed newspaper. The person who found the mistake would win the cash prize. One time, an obituary was mistakenly about a "WWI veteran" instead of a "WWII veteran."

Kathryn put into place an editing system that makes time for double-checking and has since proven to be extremely efficient. Together with Megan Quaranta, she utilized a new style guide that gives consistency to each edition of the paper.

Additionally, as Assistant Editor, Kathryn was always reminding writers about deadlines, helping them come up with content for their articles, and providing them with feedback.

"There were times in college when it would be midnight the day before an article was due for the paper and I hadn't started it yet. Almost without fail I would find Kathryn to ask her if she was finished with her article (she's very patient with me) and almost without fail she would have already sent it in weeks prior," said Quaranta.

"Kathryn has always had her priorities straight— she committed to the Emmitsburg News-Journal and she knew that it was one of her biggest priorities," Quaranta continued. "And that's how she's been able to help the paper grow into what it has become."

Throughout the years, Kathryn has been involved with and improved all of the "behind the scenes" tasks that are so valuable to a thriving publication.

"While others said, ‘Thanks, but I’ve got other things to do,’" Hillman shared, "Kathryn was ready to take on more responsibility."

"It was under Kathryn’s tenure as Assistant Editor that we finally got four students doing the all of the ‘Four Years at the Mount’ section of the newspaper," said Hillman. "But more importantly, this time was about Kathryn’s first management decisions. On one occasion, she had to select just one of the candidates from a pool of three. I remember vividly the call of panic from her – she didn’t want to pick because she didn’t want to disappoint anyone. But I told her it was her job. She was not happy with me!"

"About two days later, she called me with an option – she wanted to hire all three! When I hung up, I found myself smiling at her solution. Kathryn had figured out a way to make the situation a win-win for everyone," Hillman explained.

Kathryn’s role in the hiring process for the Emmitsburg News-Journal set up an infrastructure that will allow the paper to grow and flourish. Kathryn personally chose or recommended everyone who works for the paper, and has trained them to move into leadership positions.

Most importantly, Kathryn has helped the staff to take ownership of the paper, and in doing so, has ensured that the current staff members will hand-pick replacements for their positions who also value the paper.

"Kathryn has taught me to see the potential in others as she has seen in me," said Alexandra Tyminski, the paper’s Creative writer writers.

Eventually, Kathryn was moved into the Managing Editor position as head of the paper.

"In five years of running the paper, I was running out of ideas and growing tired of the monthly grind," said Hillman. "I needed someone who would not only take the load off of me, but who would also put in place a succession plan that would ensure the survival of the paper for years to come."

"Acknowledging that this was her staff – not mine – I gave her signing authority for all the checks, including her own," related Hillman. "I have to admit she was rather embarrassed when I forced her to not only fill out her own check, but to sign it as well. She was rather flustered, but that was my way of telling her that I trusted her."

With more and more responsibility, Kathryn thrived. And the writers who were under Kathryn’s direction appreciated her leadership.

"Kathryn is one of those rare people whose determination, dedication, and drive towards a task influence the people working around her," said Caroline King, current Arts columnist of the Emmitsburg News-Journal. "I have no idea how she does all that she does, but it always makes me want to work harder!"

"Kathryn is so awesome," King continued. "[Since] she was the Arts columnist before me, [she] has always been so patient and kind to me as I… try to fill the shoes she left."

Current Senior Year columnis Kyle Ott, commented on Kathryn’s leadership abilities, "While she is fully capable of taking charge of a project (and she has many times), what’s amazing is that she so readily transitions between taking charge and giving everyone who works under her the freedom to pursue his or her own ideas."

Kathryn has improved the Emmitsburg News-Journal by "bringing the staff together," Ott continued. "The Emmitsburg News-Journal is blessed with a wide range of personality, background, and artistic vision. Kathryn’s presence and her hard work is what binds us together and gives us direction."

Perhaps part of the reason why Kathryn is an effective leader is because she is an "out-of-this-world listener," said Tyminski. "Over the past few years, I can tell that Kathryn has done a brilliant job at being able to listen to us, both as writers and as people."

Responsibility for the most difficult parts of leadership rested with Kathryn, too.

"In addition to hiring staff, Kathryn had to deal with firing non-performers – that didn’t come easy for her, but again I insisted she had to do it," said Hillman. "In the real world, you can’t palm that responsibility off to anyone; you have to do it yourself. And she did it with tact."

Kathryn has also improved the paper by giving the "paper a face," according to Jones. "Many people on the Mount campus know she runs the paper, and I imagine many people in the community do as well, because I know she's gone knocking on doors offering advertising space. She also makes handmade thank-you cards for advertisers during the holidays. She's made it all very personable, so that no matter how big the paper gets, it still has a friendly, familiar face attached to it."

And that’s exactly what Mike Hillman had in mind when he first started the paper—a paper with the highest standards that would serve well the town of Emmitsburg and Mount St. Mary’s University.

Before Kathryn’s time with the paper, many writers and editors for the Emmitsburg News-Journal sent the paper down the right path. But, in Hillman’s words, "Kathryn pushed us over the finish line."

"I know now, with great confidence, I can leave one day and the paper will continue with the same level of excellence, thanks to Kathryn," he said.

But perhaps more impressive than any of Kathryn’s leadership qualities, or any of her talents or abilities… is her unending joy and selfless love of others.

Kathryn "radiates joy," according to Junior Year columnist Lydia Olsen. "Kathryn is always [at the meetings] with a smile on her face and a kind word to be said."

"Kathryn has one of the most beautiful hearts of anyone that I know," Olsen continued. "She is incredibly caring and selflessly gives anything she has to anyone in need. She is so talented in so many aspects of life and is sure to have a positive influence no matter where she goes."

"I vividly remember what a happy person she is," said Julia Mulqueen, a former Emmitsburg News-Journal writer from the MSM C’12.

"Kathryn is… someone who is always smiling and has a great attitude," said Tyminski.

"If I ever have had a question about the paper, I would call Kathryn on the phone," Tyminski explained. "However, my ‘quick question’ turned into an hour or so catch-up session with her. And the best part is that it happened every single time."

"Kathryn is not only a fantastic writer [and] an extraordinary editor… but she is also a great friend to me," said Tyminski.

One way that Kathryn has helped encourage others to experience the joy that comes from serving others was by bringing the idea of the "Pay It Forward" campaign to the Mount.

According to the Mount’s website, "Pay it Forward was a book written by Catherine Ryan Hyde, where a young boy is given the assignment in class to find a way to change the world, and he comes up with the ‘pay it forward’ concept. His idea was if he did three good deeds for three different people and each of them went on to do the same for others, the movement could turn into a worldwide sensation."

On April 25, 2013, the Mount community was encouraged to do good deeds for others and expect nothing in return—thanks to Kathryn’s leadership in launching the "Pay It Forward" campaign.

"We are so often consumed with our busy lives that we forget to slow down and appreciate how much we can all do to help each other," Kathryn is quoted as saying at the time of the campaign. "Even the smallest acts of kindness are appreciated: smiling at others as you pass them, holding the door for those behind you, and being there for a friend in need."

Kathryn is passionate about serving others, and that was reflected in her work with Hillman and the writers for the Emmitsburg News-Journal and in her monthly column.

In one article, Kathryn reflected on some possibilities for what she might do after college. Kathryn related how she had met a girl at the Mount who was interested in going into art therapy and wrote that it seemed like something she might also "love to do" because it combined two of her favorite things, "art and helping people."

For the immediate future, Kathryn will be working in marketing and not in art therapy, but one thing is sure—Kathryn will have a positive influence on whomever she meets in whatever she does.

"I have always loved volunteering and doing things to make others’ lives better," Kathryn wrote in the Emmitsburg News-Journal, "I want nothing more than to end each day with a smile on my face knowing that I have helped make a difference in someone's life."

And that’s exactly what she’s been doing. Thank you, Kathryn: For your joy; for putting a smile on the faces of all those involved with the Emmitsburg News-Journal; and for your selfless service of others.

Read Past Editions of Four Years at the Mount