From yellow pages and beyond, JAVMA News under Susan C. Kahler
July 25, 2018
Heavyweight yellow paper denoted the news section of the JAVMA when Susan C. Kahler started working at the AVMA in early 1975.
Ahead of her Aug. 3 retirement, the senior news editor emerita shared a smattering of her memories of the progress of JAVMA News over 43 1/2 years, with the News Department growing from one person to a staff of six and the tradition of yellow stock making way for modern design.
When not long out of college, Kahler was looking for a writing position and was thrilled to find a job at the Journal as an advertising assistant. She soon landed the job of writing the news section.
The AVMA had only 41 employees back then, and there were fewer AVMA committees and other entities—few enough that Kahler took photos of each meeting and wrote a report for the news section, along with other news and features. Every year, she traveled to the AVMA Convention to help put out the daily convention newspaper, serving as the only writer at first.
Kahler recalls the old process for producing pages of the Journal, involving galleys, or columns of text on paper, along with scissors, pins, and glue. JAVMA News appeared on yellow pages from 1961-88, switching to white stock to enhance the appearance of color photos. In the 1990s, the Journal moved to desktop publishing.
Over the years, the AVMA has grown to a staff of about 160. Under Kahler, the News Department added a part-time position, which became a full-time position, and kept adding people until reaching a staff of six. Her focus shifted to editing and editorial decision-making.
Growing the team enabled expansion into new areas. JAVMA News developed special features such as Veterinarians Afield and Research Roundup. Kahler pointed to a dedicated JAVMA News issue on AIDS in 1992 featuring an anonymous interview with Dr. Y, seropositive for HIV. Other dedicated issues have focused on diversity and the environment. Kahler said the News Department has been undertaking more enterprise journalism, or stories that reporters dig up, and more field reporting.
"I'm most proud of my role in helping build the news team to what it has become and of the work of our reporters," she said.
Kahler herself enjoyed writing about John Walsh of World Animal Protection rescuing animals around the world, the rescue of whales trapped in ice, Dr. Rick Linnehan participating in space missions, and Hank Hannah, who authored the JAVMA Legal Brief feature. She also wrote about subjects close to her heart, such as homeless dogs and cats, pets of homeless owners, and shelter research.
"It's gratifying to be able to identify topics where we can do some real good by reaching out and getting the latest information and sharing it," Kahler said.
Kahler formed a personal allegiance to the AVMA, JAVMA, the veterinary profession, and veterinarians. She said, "Veterinarians I have interacted with over time, from interview subjects to four AVMA editors-in-chief, are so generous in sharing their knowledge. It's been a privilege working alongside the profession."
Dr. Kurt J. Matushek, editor-in-chief and director of the AVMA Publications Division, said of Kahler: "At a time when, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers have spent a median of just over four years with their current employer, the fact that Sue has devoted more than 10 times that long to the AVMA is truly amazing. I will miss Sue's dedication, commitment, and—sometimes unintended—humor; she has made the AVMA, and especially the AVMA journals, better."