DIANA LADDEN, A COLLEAGUE of ours here at The Columbia Paper, died suddenly this week. We’ll publish an obituary in an upcoming issue. This is a remembrance of a journalist, businesswoman, public servant and friend.
At the time of her death she was selling advertising for this newspaper and website and doing well at it. Without display ad sales, we can’t survive. But she got her start in the newspaper business in 2002, when she applied for a job as a reporter at the now-defunct newspaper called The Independent. She was writing a novel at the time and submitted a few pages as a sample of her work. She talked me out of my skepticism.
She started covering the Village of Valatie and soon took on a more challenging beat: covering the City of Hudson. It required street smarts, a thick skin and her remarkable willingness to ask questions that you might not expect from a polite person like Diana. What came through her reporting was how deeply she cared about the people in her stories.
After leaving The Independent she worked in the Columbia County Court system, ending up county commissioner of jurors. She told me she liked that inside view of the justice system, but she never lost her love of writing. When she retired not long ago and responded to our search for an ad sales consultant, she asked for one writing assignment before she started selling–covering the trial in Hudson of four people accused of sexually abusing children. The charges and evidence were gruesome. She wrote about the proceedings fairly, with thoroughness and focus. She helped readers understand what had happened. News reporting in general doesn’t always succeed in that task. Diana did.
In conversation she was fond of citing lessons learned from her career in New York City designing hats and selling them. Up here she took pride in teaching Pilates classes for seniors at affordable prices.
Tuesday, a few hours after I learned of her death, I checked the office voice mail and was startled to hear her voice. It was a call from the evening before following up on a detail about a customer’s ad. She had wanted to get it right. It made me think that because of her willingness to share her talents with others the effect of her actions endures. And in that sense, so does a part of her.