Meg Jones spent her entire journalism career in her home state of Wisconsin, telling peoples’ stories with enthusiasm and compassion.
Her reporting for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel took her to every corner of the state and to Iraq and Afghanistan, where she embedded with Wisconsinites serving in the military. She also wrote a book, “World War II Milwaukee,” that knitted stories of those who served with stories those who loved and supported them at home.
In her obituary, Journal Sentinel reporter Bill Glauber called Jones “the definition of a general assignment reporter.”
“She wrote about snowshoe softball in Lake Tomahawk, exploring caves in Maribel and the important work of a spotter in a Park Falls fire tower,” Glauber wrote. “She covered floods, tornadoes and blizzards. She would often head out to do one story and come back with the beginnings of two or three more.”
Jones brought earnest curiosity to every story she did. When she was assigned to do more frequent weather coverage, she checked out several meteorology books from the library. Most reporters would save a few phone numbers for experts, but she wanted to truly understand what she was covering.
“That excitement, that exuberance of finding the next great story never dimmed for Meg,” Journal Sentinel Editor George Stanley told Glauber. “Reporting never became a job. She lived and loved every minute.”
Although she covered everything, her specialty was veterans and military affairs. After every reporting trip with Wisconsin’s troops, Jones spent the first few days back at her desk, calling their families to share updates and personal messages.
She remembered one young Marine whom she met in Afghanistan in 2008. More than a decade later, her newspaper covered his funeral after the veteran, Matthew Rittner, was fatally shot while on-duty as Milwaukee police officer.
She captured the feeling of many in the city when she wrote: “It doesn’t seem right for a guy who survived so much in a land so far away to die in a blast through a door by an unseen enemy in a city he had spent almost half his life protecting and making safe.”
“That’s so senseless. That’s so wrong.”
Jones was born in Rhinelander and grew up in Whitewater. Her mother said even from an early age, she had a love of writing and history.
Jones, indeed, studied journalism and history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she rowed on the crew team and played drums in the marching band. She often returned to campus to perform with the alumni band.
“I’ve probably played ‘On Wisconsin’ literally thousands and thousands of times,” she said in a Journal Sentinel video about the band’s fight song.
“I’m not anybody famous, I’m not a star athlete, I’m not anybody that anybody is ever going to cheer for and yet for two minutes on a Saturday afternoon in the fall, once a year, man, I feel like a rock star,” she said, describing the alumni performance. “It is just so, so cool, and at the heart of that is ‘On Wisconsin.’ It’s just so darn exciting.”
Jones cheered for her beloved Badgers, Brewers, Bucks and of course, the Packers, with devotion and gusto. She often switched desks during her weekend shifts to have a better view of whatever game was on that afternoon.
She traveled the world, meeting new people and learning new things. She liked to read fictional works about the places she was about to visit or books written by authors from those places. She once prepared for a trip on the Orient Express by reading Agatha Christie’s classic detective novel that took place on the same train.
Once people met her, they were no longer strangers or sources or colleagues; They were friends. Jones kept regular correspondence with them, writing longhand letters on stationery. Sometimes, she tucked in clippings of articles that had made her think of that person.
Every day she came into the newsroom, she greeted everyone she passed by name.
And that was quintessentially Jones, said Devi Shastri, Milwaukee Newspaper Guild president, in her obituary.
She “made everyone around her feel seen and valued,” Shastri said.
Please feel free to share your memories in the comments below. Click here for a video tribute to Meg Jones from the UW Marching Band alumni, featuring photos by Gary Smith.