LESLIE CRISS: Feature pages will not be the same without Putt’s vision

By Leslie Criss/NEMS Daily Journal

“I guess by now I should know enough about loss to realize that you never really stop missing someone; you just learn to live around the huge gaping hole of their absence.”
Alyson Noel

“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o’er wrought heart and bids it break.”
William Shakespeare

“I’m not sure that picture will make the Putt Cut.”
any number of writers at the Daily Journal

For as long as this column has been on this page – whether where it is today or down the left-hand column – it has been laid out by my friend and co-worker, Judy Putt.
Our senior copy editor and the person who designed most of our feature pages died a week ago after a brief and sudden illness. There’s now an empty chair on the Journal’s copy desk that will be terribly difficult to fill. And a hole in our hearts that will never be plugged.
Lots of folks called her Putt; I called her Judy Putt, running it together when I called out to her as if it were one word. I did this because I liked calling her Judy Putt – and because she wasn’t the only Judy at the Journal.
Lots of stories have been told about Judy Putt this past week as we’ve grieved our loss and fondly remembered our friend.
For as long as I have been at the Daily Journal, nearly 14 years, Judy Putt has served as sort of a moral compass for us, especially with photographs.
Years before I arrived in Tupelo, a photo ran in the Journal that, apparently raised some readers’ eyebrows. A few complaint calls came, and when Judy Putt gave the photo a more thorough glance, she was mortified and vowed to never let that happen again.
In the years since, it is not uncommon to hear a writer or editor comment about whether or not a certain picture will make the Putt Cut.
The only time I fought for a photo was when HealthWorks! was about to open and our photographer had taken, among other shots, one of an oversized model of a colon.
Judy Putt told me no one wanted to see that plastic colon over their breakfast. I told her this was a newspaper and it was our responsibility to let our readers know what HealthWorks! was all about.
We went back and forth for a while, then she gave in. Reluctantly. Later we laughed about it.
She was normally the first person to read my column after I finished writing it. As such, I came to depend on her comments as a gauge of sorts.
Many times after she’d read my column for the coming Sunday, Judy Putt would walk across the newsroom, stand in front of my cubicle and give her personal critique. It would usually go one of two ways: “Leslie, that column has just made me cry my eyes out, girl.” Or she’d approach my desk giggling. Her wondrous laughter would stop just long enough for her to tell me, “Your column for Sunday has got me so tickled.”
On the weeks she said nothing, I’d worry that I’d failed miserably and that any readers would be disappointed.
I’ll miss that from her.
And so many other things.
Rest in peace, dear Judy Putt.
leslie.criss@journalinc.com