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They began in a different era.

When Mike Vogel began his newspaper career in 1970, the Buffalo Evening News was housed in "the old building" at Main and Seneca streets. There he did odd jobs in the newsroom and sometimes chauffeured around town the publisher, always known simply as Mrs. Butler.

In time, Vogel would become a reporter, typing his stories in triplicate on copy paper sandwiched with carbon paper. Then he became a crack rewrite man, columnist, editorial writer and, finally, editorial page editor -- one of the most important jobs at the paper.

When John Davis began as a rookie staff artist in 1978, he frequently was asked to airbrush photographs to make them appropriate for the "family newspaper" -- obscuring the udders of cows and once painting a shirt onto the photo of a naked man sitting in a bathtub. Such practices would be scandalous now, an affront to accurate photojournalism. That was then.

From these odd beginnings, Davis would become a fine illustrator and page designer and, eventually, the paper's design director, responsible for its overall appearance every day.

Both Vogel and Davis retired from The News last week. They are not alone in doing so. About a dozen newsroom staffers, in all, are departing, after the company -- in a cost-cutting effort -- offered retirement incentives to a number of our approximately 700 employees.

Among those retiring are some familiar names. Photographer Bill Wippert, one of our best for more than 30 years, is a terrific shooter who represented The News beautifully. Reporter James Heaney did important investigative work and fostered computer-assisted reporting in its early days.

Others are leaving full-time employment here but are immediately returning on a part-time basis -- they include Donn Esmonde, Dan Herbeck and Brian Meyer. Their bylines will continue regularly in the paper.

Other retirees, whose roles are more behind the scenes, include Randy Rodda, a city desk editor who combined strong news judgment with a calm and pleasant demeanor, and some other fine editors including Fletcher Doyle and Scott Johnston of the sports department and news side copy editor Darlene Gillham, as well as our ever-gracious phone clerk and receptionist, Geraldine Goodwin.

It's difficult to see them go. Our newsroom is -- mostly -- a collegial one, and it feels as if we are losing longtime friends, not to mention the institutional knowledge they represent, and their day-to-day work.

Amid all of this transition, it may be Vogel's and Davis' departures that hit hardest, given their major contributions and combined 75 years of service. They brought big talent and remarkable dedication to their many jobs.

Vogel is, without a doubt, one of the best wordsmiths in the paper's history, and as editorial page editor, he represented the paper with graceful and fair-minded professionalism.

Davis is the main reason The News looks as good as it does every day, and that it has been recognized internationally for outstanding design. His stellar work ethic, dedication and artistic ability served The News extraordinarily well.

We are lucky to have a reserve of strong staffers remaining, including veteran editor John Neville, who steps into the role of editorial page editor after a career as a leading news editor. (He has been acting editorial page editor for some months while Vogel has been away due to an illness.)

Reporters, meanwhile, are taking on new assignments. Phil Fairbanks moves to the federal beat, Aaron Besecker to City Hall, Patrick Lakamp to county and state courts, Matt Gryta to law enforcement, Denise Jewell Gee to county government and T.J. Pignataro to West Seneca and Cheektowaga.

Many papers with shrinking staff numbers have dismantled their investigative teams. We have no intention of doing so. The team, led by Susan Schulman, now includes Matt Spina and Herbeck.

In this new era, we are recommitting ourselves to providing our readers with the journalism that matters, meeting the high standards set by those who have left.

email: editor@buffnews.com