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Remembering Karen Blumenthal: An unmatched mentor

letter to the editor

I remember sitting shotgun in Karen’s rental car, driving from Flowers to Bullock’s Bar-B-Q for a staff dinner during one of the DPSC board meeting weekends. It was not the first time we’d met, but it was probably the first time I had Karen’s ear to myself. Fellow staffers, more senior and more talented than me, were always clamouring to catch her because, well, who wouldn’t?

I was intimidated—something that admittedly took time to fully overcome—because Karen was everything we all dreamt of being: a hard-hitting investigative journalist, an award-winning author, a writer for the Wall Street Journal. She was brilliant.

So, what do you ask the person who is known for asking the tough questions?

Of course, Karen spoke first, inquiring about my future, did I want to be a journalist? I hedged and mentioned that I was considering business writing versus politics. This is where Karen’s frankness, as I would come to learn was signature, struck me: don’t cover politics, she said, ‘’it’s all so padded—they all have an incentive to talk to you.’’

Something shifted in this brief exchange: Karen, speaking directly and with an organic half-smile that signalled she was invested in our conversation, made me feel valid. Validity was hard to come by as an 18-year-old woman; what Karen did for me then, and in our years of subsequent interaction, is invaluable.

It was a short drive, but it is a lasting memory.

In the following years, I got to know Karen better and grew more comfortable. I remember my junior year, sitting opposite her at a picnic table at Bull City Burger, sharing fries and laughing more at ease, just as people.

Long after I graduated, I sent her an email out of the blue, again asking for advice: her reply was prompt, genuine, warm, and not lacking practicality—it was as if no time had passed. She was incredibly kind.

Karen emboldened me and all The Chronicle staff to feel that we had infinite potential.

As a mentor, as with many things, Karen was unmatched.

My love and prayers are with Scott, Abby, and Jen.

Thank you, Karen.

Nicole Kyle, Trinity '13 and News Editor, The Chronicle v. 107.

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