Vogel leaves journalism as a Nevada icon

Ed Vogel’s face was crimson as he pointed at the computer.

“I talked to that guy yesterday,” he yelled at the screen as City Editor Charlie Zobell sat nearby, somewhat stunned. “He didn’t tell me about that.”

Vogel was looking at an Associated Press report that a Nevada weather record had been set in Laughlin the previous day. Vogel, who hated to miss any story, especially one about THE WEATHER, could not understand what had happened, how he had missed it.

I knew.

I sat at my desk at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, trying to get Zobell’s attention, motioning to him that I had put a fake story into the queue, knowing how Vogel would go ballistic. It was a perfectly executed practical joke – I even had the right National Weather Service guy Vogel talked to about the record.

But Vogel wasn’t laughing; he just keep yelling and gesticulating. He wouldn’t believe it.

Finally, I got up from my desk, which was behind his, went over to him, put my arm around him and explained. Finally, he calmed down. I think he chuckled.

That was nearly 30 years ago. The indelible incident comes to mind as Vogel leaves journalism after nearly four decades at the RJ, and it sums up everything I love about this one-of-a-kind reporter: His intensity. His quirkiness. His dedication.

And even those qualities don’t sum up what most of us, if not all of us, who know him will remember, which is his essential goodness. Very few journalists leave the profession universally respected AND liked, but Vogel has accomplished both.

Vogel was unfailingly kind to me when I arrived at the RJ in 1984. My desk was right behind his. “I remember we called you ‘kid’," he reminded me recently.

Vogel is a sweetheart of a guy who remained so in all of the time I knew him, despite health issues that first cropped up in 1987 and have intermittently afflicted him since and despite being forced out by a newspaper where bean counters now have supremacy.

Vogel bears a vague resemblance to the most famous journalist Nevada has produced. And something tells me that Mark Twain would have enjoyed Vogel's storytelling style and eye for the odd.

My affection for him is only enhanced by the pivotal role he played in my career. Ed Vogel is the reason I fell in love with Carson City and the Nevada Legislature because it was soon after that practical joke that he moved to the capital to be the newspaper’s bureau chief and then fell ill toward the end of the ’87 session.

Zobell sent me up for the final three weeks to take his place – or try, at least. It was my first session, and I will never forget how wondrous and exciting it was. (Yes, I have gotten over THAT.)

Back in the 1980s, Vogel displayed the traits that would make him different than any other Nevada journalist then or since. He had a keen eye for personal details and for out of the ordinary stories. He used to do a “People” feature that ran once a week on the RJ’s front page, the kind of story I would never read. But I read those because Vogel made them interesting.

He never seemed like a “hard news” guy to me. And indeed, even in Carson City, while we were all obsessing over the minutiae of reforming the State Industrial Insurance System, Vogel was writing a fascinating piece about the capital groundskeeper that would be more well read than all of our stories combined.

But to say he simply did features would sell him short. Vogel, along with his longtime capital associate, Sean Whaley, were a great team, learning the ins and outs of state government and duly reporting to faraway southerners what their capital public employees were doing.

Vogel has a disarming style but he’s not afraid to ask difficult questions of subjects. He had this memorable habit of suddenly barking a question during a news conference, asking the question no one else would ask, while cocking his head to one side. I smile just thinking about it.

I didn’t see him that often during the last 30 years, save when I sojourned in Carson City during the Legislature, and we bumped into each other in the hallways. But we did both happen to cover a fundraiser at Lake Tahoe that featured ex-President Gerald Ford, like Vogel and me a University of Michigan graduate. We talked about our alma mater, and Vogel and I told the former president we were not sanguine about the football team’s chances. Ford told us otherwise, that the team was going to surprise us.

The year was 1997, and Michigan won the national championship. Vogel and I laughed about the ex-president's prescience later. It's a treasured, shared memory.

Indeed, I can’t think of a time I have thought about Ed Vogel that I don’t smile. He has had that effect on me, my colleagues and many, many others.

Godspeed in your retirement, old friend. The kid wishes you well.