"You hired Beth Fitzgerald?!"
It was always said with a sense of awe after we did, indeed, hire Beth Fitzgerald three years ago. The stars aligned and we had an opening just as The Star-Ledger was announcing buyouts. I remember receiving her resume and, well, it was the least slick in the pile. I later realized Beth probably hadn't done a resume in more than three decades, if ever. She started working at the Ledger on the obits desk at the age of 21 and had worked there ever since.
What started with a phone call as Beth was riding a bike near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco turned into NJBIZ's biggest hiring "get." Beth quickly became the go-to person for almost everything. "Can you cover (anything under the sun, or, sometimes, the moon) tomorrow?" "Oh sure, I know them. No problem." When one of her references said she had one of the thickest Rolodex in the state, he wasn't exaggerating. And we needed that Rolodex.
You never know what you're getting when you hire someone. Unless someone bombs in an interview (yes, you can lose points if you say you've been giving professional gambling a go while you're between jobs) or has a tripped-out Twitter page (note to self: maybe it really does matter what you put on social networking sites), hiring is a crap shoot. You interview candidates more than once, give them a job-relevant test, check references. And then you go with your gut and hire, mostly, on instinct.
So while three years ago we wanted that Rolodex and the 34 years of business journalism that came with it, we also got Beth Fitzgerald. Someone who not only knows everyone but who is known by everyone. Someone who gave NJBIZ an instant boost of visibility, and immediately raised our credibility. Someone who is the best interviewer I've ever seen. Someone who is the most down-to-earth person I've ever met. Someone who never, ever says no. Someone who, on her own initiative, covers a ribbon-cutting at 5 p.m. on a Friday, way too far from her home, because it will help with source development (and she's the last person who needs any help in that area). Someone who not only works tirelessly but is tirelessly pleasant while doing it—not an easy combination to pull off. Someone who can cover the Pascack Valley Hospital issue inside-out while keeping the many involved parties happy with her—an even harder combo to pull off. Someone who bakes. From scratch.
Beth gave notice yesterday. Her last day is Oct. 27. She is moving to NJ Spotlight, where she will cover health care. I don't know Tom Johnson or John Mooney, who founded and run the website. I only know their work, which is quite good. But if I did know them, I'd say to them, "You hired Beth Fitzgerald?!" With the same sense of awe I used to hear. And with a bit of envy and regret.