This morning I heard the news that my former CityLife co-worker and news editor, Mike Zigler, has died at the age of 29. I am greatly saddened by this news. Mike was a great guy, one of the hardest-working people I ever met and had a big heart.
I met Mike when I moved into his cubicle (which also was the home of CL photographer Bill Hughes) on my first day at Las Vegas CityLife in the spring of 2004. I was the new kid. I was the new girl (the only female staff writer). And since I was moving to CL from a less respected newspaper, I was someone who had to prove herself to her new news editor (and everyone else).
Even though Mike was my manager (and when CL Editor Matt O’Brien went on sabbatical that summer to write his book, Mike was certainly my boss) he welcomed me to my first day at CityLife with a huge, sincere smile and handshake. There is a scarcity of sincerity and charisma in journalism. Mike had an unusually high supply of both.
In the deadline-drenched crazy days ahead, Mike and I became a kind of team. We were the only dedicated news reporters on staff. And even though he could have pulled rank on me lots of times, Mike always welcomed my opinion (even if he didn’t take it) with an openess that is also rare in the newsroom. And in a way, we were the perfect odd couple. He, the full-blooded Libertarian, All-American guy from Indiana. And me, the hard-core feminist, liberal gal from Alaska (by way of birth in Illinois).
Our political philosophies could not have been farther apart. (And Zig delighted in pressing my buttons until I was in full Feminist Outrage mode!) But in truth, our core beliefs — our shared idealism about the good in people — was what made us friends. For me, my relationship with Mike was like brother and sister. We enjoyed pushing each other on the politics that separated us. But deep down, we were more alike than either of us would ever have wanted to admit.
And I am certain that Mike helped guide me to do some of my best work as a journalist. It was the work of my first year at CityLife that earned me the Outstanding Journalist of the Year award in 2005. I know that some of that was due to Mike’s innate ability to know when to push, when to encourage and when to let a writer struggle and figure it out for herself.
Mike had a big heart. He put the love he had for his family at the top of his priorities, even under the crush of deadlines or when it was wholly inconvenient. In a business where competition and scoops have a way of squeezing the heart and humanity out of a person, Mike never flinched.
And he never forgot to have fun. I will never forget how for my birthday that first fall, Mike got the CL crew to help him decorate my third of the cubicle with Halloween stuff (my favorite holiday). There was a huge, plastic scarecrow in my seat, stuff was all over the floor and my desk and computer. I had to dig my way back into my seat when I came back from lunch with my husband! This might seem like such a small, silly thing. But to me it was so sweet and symbolic. Mike was one of the biggest neat-freaks I have ever met! And the sheer volume of Halloween glory happening at my desk was certainly a kind of “mess.” Somehow, he was the architect of that messiness because he knew it was good fun and would make me and others laugh, which was more important.
Mike was quite a guy. He was a tenacious reporter. My heart goes out to his family and his close loved ones. He will be missed.