Across The Universe: The Sierra has lost a wonderful woman (opinion) | SierraSun.com

Across The Universe: The Sierra has lost a wonderful woman (opinion)

When it comes to reporting news at Lake Tahoe, there's one lesson anyone worth his or her salt needs to know — it's "Sierra," not "Sierras."

Luckily for me, Tanya Canino made sure I didn't learn the hard way.

It was July 17, 2007, my second day on the job as a general assignment reporter for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza, and I had unknowingly written the incorrect word in a story I filed for Tanya's approval.

Moments later, I heard: "Kevin, come in here."

Tanya had my story up on her screen in her office.

"What's up," I nervously asked.

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However, there was no yelling; instead, she gave me praise for doing a good job on my second-ever story as a professional newspaper reporter.

But, there was a catch.

"Just one thing … you have the word 'Sierras' in here. That is not correct," she told me matter-of-factly, as if to make sure this cub reporter standing in front of her knew, clearly, he had screwed up.

She explained, in detail, that "Sierra" is correct, when referring to the mountain range as "the Sierra" or "the Sierra Nevada."

I remember at the time feeling insulted. "Whatever," my mind thought. "It's the TINIEST of things; no one will even notice."

Boy, was I wrong.

Other reporters over the years, whose editors haven't been as diligent, have learned the hard way when readers have called them out for their ignorance. After all, no reporter likes writing a correction, and it stings more when several people call you out on the error.

Barely one day on the job, I already had my first lesson on what it takes to be a trusted newspaper reporter: Tanya taught me that you can be one of the best writers around, but it means squat if no one believes your words.

And while at the time I was perturbed (believe me, I hustled to my computer after that and Googled to triple-check that I was wrong), I look back on it now and realize how grateful I've become because of it.

Tanya Canino took a chance on a wide-eyed, 22-year-old from Michigan who knew squat about Lake Tahoe, and she hired me to cover news in Incline Village, a community where some of the readers' egos are bigger than the lake itself.

Tanya told it like it was, and in the world of newspapers, I couldn't have asked for a better editor and early mentor.

She pulled no punches when it came to telling me I messed up a story — but also wouldn't drop her gloves when doling out praise for our accomplishments.

She unflinchingly critiqued my copy and decisions — and, with as much vigor, defended us against public criticism.

She worked hard to make me a better writer and editor — and as it turns out, without me even realizing it at the time, a better person.

In 2008, Tanya wrote a few columns after learning she'd been diagnosed with breast cancer (the disease that ultimately took her life this past Friday), chronicling her bouts with chemotherapy, her frustration with coming to terms with "Lucy," and her family's strength, while thanking the community for its passionate support.

This week, there's one line in particular from a May 2008 piece that stands out strongly for me: "Cancer has given me a rare gift. It's a gift of seeing how much people love and care for you. We don't realize how compassionate our community can be as we go about our busy lives, but when a disease threatens its ugliness, things that don't matter stop, and love pours out. My cup is overflowing with your love. Thank you."

Tanya I want to thank you for molding me into a better human being, and for doing so much for our communities. We'll miss you.

In fact, the entire Sierra Nevada will miss you for a long time.

Kevin MacMillan is managing editor of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. Email him at kmacmillan@sierrasun.com.

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Tanya Canino, a 30-year North Lake Tahoe resident and former editor of the Tahoe World and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza newspapers, died Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, after a long battle with cancer. She was 55.

Click here to read about her life and upcoming memorial service information.