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Margie Freivogel says goodbye after 4 decades in journalism

Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Public Radio news editor Margie Freivogel has journalism in her DNA. She was recognized for her high school journalism accomplishments by a U.S. President before even starting college. Years later she served in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Washington D. C. bureau during her long tenure with that publication. After leaving the Post she was co-founder of the on-line publication The St. Louis Beacon and then entered uncharted waters when she helped steer the merger of that organization with St. Louis Public Radio. Two years later, she is ready to turn the reigns over to others to explore the world of retirement.

But before she began that well-deserved retirement, Freivogel joined Don Marsh on "St. Louis on the Air" to reflect on her long and rewarding career as well as the state of journalism.

While acknowledging her last day was bittersweet, Freivogel is grateful that unlike many in today’s journalism, she could leave her position on her own terms and at the time of her own choosing. “To leave feeling like the organization is thriving and growing and in good hands, that’s really rare,” she observed.

Freivogel is especially proud to have been such an integral part of forming what many consider a ground breaking organization merging digital media with a broadcast operation. “[It’s] very unusual, almost unique nationally, I think, but a model that other people are watching and picking up on.”

“One of the most difficult things is to sustain really high quality local news coverage,” Freivogel added. “Newspapers are doing it but their newsrooms are much smaller than they used to be. Commercial broadcast doesn’t have the capacity to pick up the slack, and what we’ve done here is a truly multi-media news organization that’s in a position to really serve people in the way they want to be served.”

Freivogel has observed a sea change in journalism during her more than four decade career. When she first walked into the Post-Dispatch newsroom, there were spittoons on the floor and typewriters clacking, a far cry from today’s St. Louis Public Radio newsroom where reporters are silently working at computer keyboards and screens. “It was a very different era,” she said. “There was a point that I was kind of in a state of mourning that that was passing and wasn’t going to be the same, and then I realized that that was kind of silly and that the tools that are available now to do journalism and the means that people have to communicate with each other are just far superior to what existed before. And once I reached that point, I just got very enthusiastic about building something new.”

A highlight of Freivogel’s time leading the St. Louis Public Radio newsroom is the coverage of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson and the issues raised by it. “We learned what could be done through this experience,” she said. “The merger was going well, but we were re-born though that experience. We learned to trust each other and we learned to really live in the digital world in a different way than we had before.”

In her retirement Freivogel looks forward to being able to take care of and visit with her grandchildren, devoting more time to her rowing hobby, having time to read long form things and exploring an expanding list of possibilities.

"St. Louis on the Air" discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter and join the conversation at @STLonAir.

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Mary Edwards is a producer for St. Louis Public Radio's broadcast program, "St. Louis Symphony."