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Vanaski: It's about the mark we leave

| Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 10:54 p.m.

This week, I've been thinking about how people you don't know — or barely know — can affect your life in major ways.

If it weren't for Steve Jobs, I'd never have taken up running or most any other exercise, unless someone else could have come up with some other tool of distraction besides portable music.

If it weren't for George de Mestral, the person who invented Velcro, my children wouldn't wear shoes, because putting shoelaces on a toddler is not right at all.

If it weren't for Richard Mellon Scaife, I wouldn't be in Western Pennsylvania. I don't know where I'd be, but it wouldn't be here. I also might not be at a newspaper doing the thing I've always wanted to do.

Before Scaife's death on July 4, a male co-worker mentioned that he occasionally meets someone who says: “Oh, you work at a newspaper? I always wanted to do that. I went to school for it.”

And then, the co-worker added: “Know what he's doing now? He's working at [insert retail chain here].”

Now that's not a knock against retail places or the people who work there. The point is that everyone is not fortunate enough to work in their chosen careers. Ironically, it's usually the job and the pursuit of it that keep you from appreciating the people who make it possible.

I met Scaife one time, and it was brief. It was at a holiday party he hosted. There was a line of people who wanted to talk to him. I almost didn't get in the line because, truthfully, I felt I didn't deserve our publisher's time.

Now I'm really glad editor Frank Craig encouraged me to do it, because it gave me the chance to say, “Thank you,” to Scaife in person.

I'm not sure how involved he was in hiring me when I started as a copy editor more than 10 years ago, but Scaife sent word when he had something positive to say about one of my columns.

It makes you take your responsibility to the newspaper seriously when you know your publisher reads your work. (It's also kind of terrifying.)

I never discussed it with him, but it seems to me that to be invested in newspapers at this point in history has to involve a serious level of commitment to journalism. He certainly had that. Even if he didn't say it directly to each of his employees, his public announcement about the steps he took to ensure the future of the Trib demonstrated that he valued our work.

His foresight means we can pursue our dreams while supporting our families.

In the end, Scaife helped me realize that if you do things right, your life can affect people you don't know in ways you'll never know.

You don't have to know about that impact in order for that mark to be made. That's as it should be.

Nafari Vanaski is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-856-7400, ext. 8669, nvanaski@tribweb.com or on Twitter @NafariTrib.

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