Losing a family member is difficult. Inevitable, but difficult.
All of us at the Index-Journal mourn the loss of a woman who was not only our boss, but a dear family member. Judi Burns, president and publisher, died Thursday at the age of 72 after a lengthy battle with illness.
As with most things in her life, Judi fought this fight her way. Until the last few weeks, she maintained a schedule that included daily trips to the office and leading our weekly managers meetings.
She complained little about her own ailments. She was good at diverting attention, focusing instead on the business at hand of running a daily community newspaper. Or focusing on how others at the Index-Journal were doing. Judi much preferred talking about good cuts of meat available at Corley’s and the Pantry Shoppe than discussing any of her woes.
Judi was the mother to three daughters, two who worked alongside her at the newspaper, but she was also something akin to a mother to her employees, even those who might best be described as her contemporaries.
There is an expression among journalists and newspaper people. The ink is in our bloodstream. We say that to describe the breadth and depth of our passion for and devotion to our trade. It was in Judi’s blood too, passed down from her father and mother who were this paper’s publishers before her, and rooted in her journalism studies at the University of South Carolina. Rest assured that commitment remains in the family’s blood today as Judi’s daughters, Mundy Price and St. Claire Donaghy, take the newspaper’s reins heading into the Index-Journal’s next century.
Perhaps more important was Judi’s devotion to real community journalism. By that we mean the kind of community journalism that only locally owned newspapers can commit themselves to and give its readers. From the first edition in February 1919 to the one you hold in your hands today, the Index-Journal has maintained a proud history as a family-owned newspaper serving and reflecting its community. And with no big corporation strings attached, strings that demand bigger and bigger returns on investment at the expense of holding true to the journalism trade.
Judi believed in the public’s right to know, she believed in transparency in government — and she fought for it, with the company’s checkbook and through the judicial system.
Moreover, Judi believed in her employees. She entrusted them to do the newspaper’s business because she trusted them much like family. Of course, she also expected only the best from her employees, in much the same way family members have expectations of each other. With disappointments came appropriate measures of discipline and, yes, sometimes wrath. Bosses get upset; so do mommas. But unlike most bosses, there were plenty of moments when anger would subside and be replaced with smiles and hugs. Yes, hugs.
Greenwood and the Lakelands, you have lost a special lady. A smart lady. A true Southern lady with plenty of grit and grits. Girls Raised In The South, you know.
We at the Index-Journal have lost a dear boss, a dear friend, a second momma.
Losing a family member is difficult. Painful.