As the first woman to be hired at the Arizona Republic’s news desk, Charlotte Buchen has always been respected and praised.
And that praise, say her closest friends, was earned by her tenacious and crisp personality that would always drive her to get to the bottom of any story.
“Charlotte broke many stereotypes of the 1950s. She did not marry or raise a family. She ventured into a career without academic recognition and excelled in a male-dominated career,” wrote her great-niece Brittney Arbogast after interviewing her for a class project.
by Buchen her talent and skills as a journalist not only landed her a job in the newsroom, but paved the way for many other women.
“Women journalists were in a way oppressed at that time,” said Paul Dean, a longtime friend and colleague of Buchen. “But not Charlotte. Never Charlotte.
Men would always treat her as an equal. The other women, who before Charlotte all worked in the women’s department at the time, would see her as a role model.
“I was in awe of her,” said Jana Bommersbach, who was also working for The Republic at the time. “To me, she was like a hero and a role model.”
Even outside of the newsroom, she was often spotted in the bar across the street drinking and smoking with her peers, which was not a common scenario for women at the office. era.
“She wasn’t the newsroom girl, she was literally one of the guys,” Bommersbach said.
Charlotte became the first woman in The Republic’s newsroom
Buchen launched his career as a journalist at his hometown newspaper, the Canton (Illinois) Daily Ledger. While working there, her sister answered an ad in a Chicago newspaper in Buchen’s name for a job in marketing, Buchen told her great-niece.
“It eventually led some 10 years later to becoming the first female reporter assigned to the Arizona Republic newsroom,” Buchen wrote for Arbogast.
During her years in Chicago, Buchen learned her skills in public relations and publicity communications, but her dream at the time was to be a journalist, so she returned to her job in southern Illinois. It was from Canton that she moved to Arizona and landed a job with The Arizona Republic.
She interviewed for the job at The Republic in 1956, a day or two after the TWA/United plane crash at Grand Canyon National Park, one of the worst disasters in aviation history that killed 128 people. According to Vance Wilson, a friend and student of Buchen, The Republic editor asked her during the interview how she liked the morning paper.
“Charlotte, who has never known a punch, told him it’s too bad the state’s largest newspaper depends on electronic copy to report the state’s greatest story,” wrote Wilson in the notes he read aloud during his service which was held on Sept. 15.
And so her honesty paid off as she became the first woman to cover city news for The Republic. During her editorial years, she wrote the first series of articles on air pollution in the Phoenix area and has often been honored for her article Stories about poverty and education.
“The 14-year-old Republic experience brought glamor to my life, just like the old movies. A winter destination, Phoenix was perfect for a reporter,” Buchen wrote for his great-niece.
“My day might include media coverage of the Phoenix education battle over merit pay for teachers, later in the afternoon a celebrity interview (Lucille Ball for example), and that night, the cover of a speech by Home Secretary Stewart Udall at the Westward Ho Hotel.”
Buchen liked to dig into his stories. She would research all aspects thoroughly and would never take no for an answer.
“She once told me that when she took on a special assignment, she became an expert on the subject for as long as it took to complete the story or the series, and forgot most of what she had learned when she moved on to the next one,” Wilson said.
Dean said she was particularly stubborn during interviews. Sometimes she already knew the answer to a question before she asked it. If someone didn’t give the answer she was looking for, Dean said, she would rephrase her question and push again until she found out what she wanted.
“She had this gruff voice, and I don’t know if it was too much cigarettes or too much whiskey,” Dean said. “It made her a bit intimidating during interviews.”
During her years in Arizona, Buchen gained insight into many key issues in the state at the time, and she always did so to make an impact.
“She used all that knowledge for the benefit of the reader,” said Athia Hardt, a friend of hers and former Republic reporter. “She was precise and she was capable.”
A turning point in Buchen’s career came in 1967 when she was awarded the Ford Foundation Journalism Fellowship for a six-month study program at Stanford.
Buchen was one of two women and the only one without a college degree among the 20 journalists across the country who were chosen for the fellowship program.
“All the honesty, integrity, accuracy and effort to ensure my work benefits others played a part,” she wrote for her great-niece.
“Although this scholarship did not allow me to graduate, it gave me great pride to know that my 10 years of preparation through mentors and on-the-job training gave academic approval and recognition for my work.”
Her storied career in journalism and communications spans six decades studded with numerous awards and accolades, putting her in good stead in a field run by men.
By the time she founded one of Arizona’s most prestigious public relations firms, Buchen and Co., she had received numerous first-place awards from the Arizona Press Club, the Public Relations Society of America, and other newspapers and community organizations. .
“A woman striving to be a proper journalist in a man’s world was just one obstacle I faced; the fact that I didn’t have a college degree was another obstacle, as was the fact that I had little money,” Buchen wrote.
“I think it was great for Charlotte to survive in that environment,” Dean said. “She survived because she was a tough woman.”
An intimidating journalist; a loving friend
As a journalist, Buchen was known to be “rough” and “sometimes stubborn”. Still, as a friend, she was quite fun to be around.
“She considered everyone who came into her life her family,” Buchen’s lifelong friend Marianne Cole said.
She described Buchen as a warm and loving friend who would always have great stories to tell.
“She said she would never get married because it would hurt her career. And she would never have kids,” Cole said. “So she kind of adopted everybody.”
Friends and family remember Buchen as a very healthy woman for her age. It was only in his final days that his health was compromised by a small aneurysm that doctors discovered in his brain. She died on August 30 at the age of 94.
“She died a peaceful, quiet death,” Cole said. “I think she’s probably angry that she didn’t turn 95. I’m sure that was her goal,” she added with a laugh.
And knowing his personality, that was probably his intention.
“Charlotte was a legend in the newsroom,” Hardt wrote in a Facebook post paying tribute to her. “She wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer and knew her stuff better than the person she was interviewing.”
“We have lost a piece of history, one of the first women in the newsroom,” Hardt wrote.
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