Meet a member: Mary Jane Skala

I became better friends with Mary Jane Skala during the NFPW post-tour to Yellowtsone National Park and Jackson, Wyo. in the fall of 2008. She is familiar with the Moab area in southern Utah, so was a great help for the NFPW post-tour in 2013. She is a talented writer and great asset to our organization. Meet my friend, Mary Jane Skala.

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Mary Jane Skala

Name: Mary Jane Skala

City and State: Abiquiu, N.M.

Affiliate and any leadership positions: At the moment, New Mexico Press Women and Nebraska Press Women. I belonged to Ohio Professional Writers for 40 years, from 1973-2013. I served as president, vice president, secretary and contest chair, and organized many spring and fall meetings. When I moved to Kearney, Neb. in 2012, I joined Nebraska Press Women and served as secretary and contest chair. In May, I moved to Abiquiu, N.M., so I joined New Mexico Press Women, but I’ve kept the NPW membership because of all my friends there.

Tell us a little about you.

I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to a tight clan of journalists. My father was the dean of radio news broadcasters in Cleveland. As news director at radio station WGAR, he covered the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, went to Russia with then-Vice President Richard Nixon in 1959, attended every national political convention, etc. My twin sister Martha is editor of the Conneaut (Ohio) Courier. My brother was editor-in-chief of Industry Week magazine and now writes non-fiction books. My late uncle was editor of the Middletown (Ohio) Journal.

After graduating from Michigan State University, I worked at the Purdue University News Service, putting my then-husband through graduate school there. I then became a reporter with the Sun Newspapers in suburban Cleveland. From 1981-85 I was the editor of the employee magazine for the Chessie News, serving 30,000 Chessie System Railroads (now CSX) in 13 states. When Chessie moved to Florida, I stayed in Cleveland as the employee newsletter editor at a hospital and did PR at Cuyahoga Community College.

From 1989-2009, I returned to Sun News as senior editor. I loved it. I wrote a chain-wide column that reached 500,000 readers. I ran the newsroom, wrote editorials, gave suburban election results on local TV, appeared on news magazines, etc., won awards, served as an officer in several professional organizations, etc. I’d have stayed forever, but newspapers sputtered, and Sun News folded. Thanks to my NFPW connections, I found work as a reporter for the Kearney (Neb.) Hub from 2012-2015.

Since May, I’ve been the volunteer coordinator at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, N.M., a Presbyterian Education and Retreat Center. I volunteered here between newspaper jobs, and when they called offering me a job last spring, I couldn’t resist. I still write my weekly column for the Kearney Hub.

Any career advice you would give?

Do what you love, and the money will follow. My father always said a career ranked second in importance only to the person you marry, and he’s right. Learn. Make friends. Make connections. Join professional organizations; they’re invaluable in teaching you about the business. You never know where those ties will lead.

Which talent would you most like to have?

To have a beautiful singing voice.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

Right here in northern New Mexico. Since I first went West on a family vacation when I was 12, I’ve always dreamed of living in the West, and here I am. I have no TV; and the closest supermarket is 45 minutes away, but I have friends, fulfilling work, beauty, silence and more stars at night than I can count.

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Mary Jane Skala and her son, Matt.

 

What book are you reading?

I’m re-reading “Seven Storey Mountain,” by Thomas Merton, his autobiography of his twisting spiritual journey from his aethistic childhood to his calling as a Trappist monk and a writer of books that are theological classics. I just finished “Angle of Repose,” by Wallace Stegner. I’ve read it four times. It’s about a young woman from New York who headed West 125 years ago. I always discover new insights when I re-read favorite books.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I’m an identical twin. I was the lone embedded Christian on a trip to Israel with 75 Jews during the Intifada. During that trip, I spent three days camping in the Gobi desert. I was told to stay in my tent at night – prowling hyenas would eat me if I didn’t.

Why is your affiliate and NFPW important to you? I have learned so much! Bosses don’t have time to teach; only through organizations like NFPW do you add the fat that’s critical for a successful career. Professional friends became personal friends. NFPW friends got me the job at the Kearney Hub when newspapers died in Cleveland. I’ve attended conferences, made lifelong friends, and seen parts of the U.S. I might never have seen, thanks to NFPW. It polished my career.

Way to follow you on a website, twitter, Facebook, etc. I have email (maryjaneskala@gmail.com) I’m on Facebook, and my weekly columns can be found at kearneyhub.com

 

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