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Cartoon by Carmen Cerra, used with permission

Barbara Mack

I wish every news organization had a lawyer like Barbara Mack. But there was only one of her. And we lost her Thursday.

I was privileged to be an editor and reporter for the Des Moines Register when Barb, a former Register reporter, was the cornerstone of our legal team.

We had an in-house legal team, which was rare, even then. As I recall, we had up to five lawyers at a time on our in-house law firm. Gary Gerlach headed the team before he became publisher. Mike Giudicessi, Joe Thornton and Marcia Cranberg were among our lawyers. And I’m trying to remember others (help me out, Register colleagues). I enjoyed working with all of them, but Barb was the most memorable.

Everywhere else I’ve worked, you called a lawyer as a last resort. I’ve worked with in-house lawyers who were timid and looked at their jobs as keeping us from getting sued. I’ve worked with outside counsel we called as a last resort and the meter was always running and their job was to keep us from getting sued. Barb and her colleagues were always eager for a legal battle to pry some public information from officials who didn’t respect freedom-of-information laws. She didn’t fear lawsuits and helped us make sure our stories would stand up in court. She loved a fight and I can’t remember one she lost.

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