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In praise of Ed Vogel, prolific deadline scribe

You took Ed Vogel for granted, but it’s OK.

We all did.

For the most part, he didn’t mind. Prolific journalism coursed through his veins. The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s longtime capital bureau chief’s bylines filled the air like snow flurries in Carson City. Whether he was patrolling the halls of the Legislature or roaming the back roads of his adopted Silver State, for 37 years Vogel was a remarkably durable and reliable scribe.

After battling the ravages of cancer in recent years, and suffering a stroke earlier this month, Vogel died Sunday at his Minden home with wife, Carol and family members at his side. He was 66.

But that’s not his life’s final paragraph — not by a long shot. His grasp of Nevada history and institutional knowledge of the state Legislature and its politics made him essential to the newspaper. Vogel’s work ethic and versatility made him the reader’s dependable companion.

He was so busy chasing stories and hitting deadlines he rarely stopped to take a breath or a bow. He was like newsprint itself in the readers’ hands: Comfortable and common, informative and interesting. And as reliable as sunrise.

For year after year you’d have to search to find an edition of the Review-Journal not graced with Ed Vogel’s byline. Or, often as not, with two or three stories.

No news stayed in his head and hands for long. He turned a piece as fast as a big league shortstop turns a double play. Like all the best veterans, he made it look easy.

He was so skilled in the thoroughly unappreciated art of deadline journalism that readers, editors and many of his fellow reporters took him for granted. But that’s the way the craft works. In most places, the heavy load of the daily news is pulled by draft horses, not show horses.

Although I first admired Vogel after reading his personality profiles and Nevada travel pieces, tales that showcased his interviewing and reporting skills, I truly started to appreciate him after observing him at the Legislature on an ordinary day.

From a musty, messy office only another reporting pack rat could love, he was a knot of frenetic energy. He made the rounds at hearings throughout the day. He ran stories to ground, then returned to the office to file. The phone never stopped ringing. The result of his toil filled reams of newsprint on the fly.

He was back at it the next morning.

It begs the obvious to say he provided the public a service by making the newspaper’s readers better informed about their government. That was his job.

But it wasn’t just a generation of subscribers who benefited from Ed’s work ethic and experience. Although they might be reluctant to admit it, his colleagues and competition took lessons from him, too, and enjoyed his generous spirit. Whether other reporters were following his many leads or nervously checking their rear-view mirrors for signs of Vogel about to pass them on a breaking story, they felt his presence on the beat.

He burned hot for a story until the very end.

That’s the way it is with prolific journalists. Although a few are fully appreciated for their energy and tenacity, most are too busy working the phones, reading reports and grinding copy to hear the applause. Ed was like that.

It wasn’t until after he was diagnosed with cancer and made an improbable comeback that some folks were reminded the Review-Journal’s byline machine was very human and, despite a powerful capacity and indefatigable spirit, was subject to life’s ultimate deadline.

So when the opportunity arose in 2012 a few of us got together and nominated Vogel for the Nevada Press Association Hall of Fame. It was an easy call.

He reacted the way you’d expect. He was humble and appreciative.

Now Ed Vogel’s clattering keyboard has gone silent. He gave the readers the facts and pursued the truth in the finest tradition of the craft.

And although we took him for granted, we all should be grateful for his work.

Nevada native John L. Smith also writes a column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal that appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Contact him at jsmith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295.

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