Q&A: Norm Runnion
...Q&A: Norm Runnion Norman Runnion
is one of the most respected names in the history of Vermont journalism.For over 20 years, Runnion served as editor of the Brattleboro Reformer.During that time he served two terms as president of the New England Society of Newspaper Editors. Runnion retired from newspaper work in the early 1990s to pursue another of his life goals - to become an Episcopal priest.
After a decade of service, Runnion
retired from the priesthood two years ago, but has hardly slowed down at all.Today, at 74, he
finds himself back in the world of journalism, as well as ministering to two congregations near his
writes a weekly column, "Runnion's
View to Montpelier", for The Herald of Randolph, and finds himself covering a not unfamiliar beat at the Vermont State House.In addition, at the time of the interview, he
had just completed a course on Adobe PhotoShop, part of his
interest in digital photography.
: I grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, then St Louis and then Chicago, because my dad was an editor.We moved where he
started out in journalism in Kansas City, then in St Louis and then in Chicago for the old Chicago Sun.My grandfather was a small-town publisher in Kansas. VBM
: So it's kind of in the blood. Runnion
: Yes, it was.
...Runnion: I went to the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern.
Graduated in 1951.
: It was a long journey.
:I covered Winston Churchill, and I covered Charles de Gaulle.
: It was memorable.Then the Vietnam War came along, and I got really burned out.There was the Cuban Missile Crisis, then the assassinations, and it was just first class burnout. VBM
: You were with UPI
through all of that? Runnion
: Yes.Thirteen years.
: Until 1990.Twenty-one years. VBM
: During that time you won several awards at the Reformer
, if I remember correctly. Runnion
: Yes, we won a lot of awards, in reporting, writing, photography.
: We had virtually no turnover when I was there.This was much to the unhappiness of the owners, because the longer people stayed, the more money they commanded.But we'd go years without anyone leaving. VBM
: Who was the reporter that covered Rockingham for all those years? Runnion
: Dot Nadeau.
was an extraordinary woman.She
worked 24 hours a day for the Reformer
.What a woman. VBM
: What did you like about running a small-town paper like that?Especially after your work with UPI
: The independence.
: I'm so glad I got out when I did.
: I can't think of many times when that didn't happen on a daily basis.
: In politics, there were a lot of things.
: I was there when Act 250 came in, from the start, in covering the Legislature for the Reformer
: Politics was always very much a part of the Reformer
all through the years.
: Yes it is.
...Runnion: I said for a long time that God sent me into the church to do penance for being a journalist for most of my life. VBM
: It could have been worse.You could have been a lawyer! Runnion
: I'd always been secretly, to myself, interested in it, so to me it was a natural move.
: Being able to understand so many points of view.As you know, there's nothing that basically surprises you as a journalist.You see so many sides of so many people, so much hurting and so much suffering, so the ministry just seemed a natural extension of what I'd already done. VBM
: Where did you go to seminary? Runnion: I went to Virginia Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1993.
I was there three years and got a masters in divinity. VBM
: What was it like going back to school at that time of your life?How old were you? Runnion
: I was 60.
: No. I'd been divorced.During my second summer I asked my bishop what he
wanted me to do, because my first summer I'd worked as chaplain in St Elizabeth's Mental Hospital
in Washington.It was part of the course requirements.The second year he
said why don't you come to Randolph and work at St John's Episcopal Church
.I came and met Linda and we got married and lived happily ever after. VBM
: That's a fascinating story. Runnion
: I graduated in May 1993, was ordained in June and married in July.It was really a memorable summer. VBM
: And you've been here in Vermont ever since? Runnion
: Yes.I'm a Congregational pastor now.
: Too much.
: My wife and I have a fight about this.
: When this first came out, the Internet and all, in the ‘90s, we needed to be on the Net with our kids in school and researching things.
: Well, I'll tell you, probably my predictable answer is the Bible and theology.
: A year ago.
: In fact, I'm quoted in the new New Yorker piece on Dean.
: I know it is.
: It has been amazing to watch, and it may be a huge backlash that he
won't be able to recover from.I've never seen anything like this in years of covering politics, the way these people have turned on one of their own.It's a shocking thing, really.