The wizard of all

Tina Flynn, behind the scenes at the CN&R for 39 years

From Valentina to Tina Flynn—the CN&R’s design and production queen has been with the paper since 1978.

From Valentina to Tina Flynn—the CN&R’s design and production queen has been with the paper since 1978.

Photo by Jason Cassidy

The only thing that’s been at Chico News & Review longer than Art Director Tina Flynn is the Chico News & Review itself. As the newspaper commemorates its 40th anniversary this month, its longest-running employee is on the cusp of celebrating her 39th year, having joined the paper in October 1978.

Her official title is managing art director, which basically means she’s in charge of how the newspaper looks each week. But that’s just what’s on the masthead. In addition to designing cover stories, Flynn manages production, wrangling the cats of all departments to get the paper to press each week. She also manages the CN&R’s building, staff birthday parties and anything else that might otherwise fall through the cracks. She’s the unassuming yet mighty force behind the scenes keeping the wheels of the CN&R moving

Like many of the people at the paper in the early years, Flynn’s story starts with The Wildcat, the Chico State newspaper that won its independence from the university and became the CN&R. While a student, Flynn did design and ad sales at The Wildcat for a short time, but she didn’t immediately follow the staff to the new paper. She had come to Chico in 1971 to study fine arts/humanities, not journalism, and after graduating she thought she’d probably move back to her native Los Gatos and look for work in the Bay Area. Then she met a local guy—“at a kegger”—her future husband, Tom Bush.

“I was interested in art. I wanted to have it be somehow part of my profession,” Flynn said in a recent interview. “[But] I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to do that and still be able to make money, [and also] stay in Chico.”

Besides her Wildcat experience, Flynn hadn’t taken any design or journalism classes at Chico State, but she did take a few printmaking classes from Janet Turner (the late artist for whom the print museum on campus is named).

“I became very intrigued and interested in the whole idea of the printing process—lithography, offset lithography, etching, screenprinting—and I knew I wanted to be involved in that in some way. I also was really interested in typography—designing with type,” Flynn said. “So with those two interests, it sort of became a natural that I apply for the job at the Chico News & Review, [and] when I saw that they had an opening, I jumped at the chance.”

Within a couple of months, she became the paper’s first production manager, and Flynn and her crew were tasked with handling the design of all editorial and advertising content. The work was hard, but fulfilling, and with that plus being on the front lines of the alternative newsweekly revolution, Flynn said she’d found her niche.

“I felt a need to be involved with a social movement. And at that time period we were just coming out of the end of the era of Watergate and Vietnam, where for the first time the American public couldn’t trust their leaders. So, for alternative newsweeklies to be the watchdog and look out for the little guy, I found that really gratifying. Even though I wasn’t a writer, I was a part of it,” she said.

Of course, the ’70s and ’80s were the days before desktop publishing, when text and art was literally cut (with an Exacto knife) and pasted (with various highly toxic substances). And during the 1980s, Flynn relinquished her production management job to focus on doing outside publishing with a CN&R side business called Graphic Works.

She still helped with the paper as well, and in the early 1990s, —when computers took over the tools of design—she went back to managing the paper’s design department and has remained there ever since.

“I go where I’m needed,” Flynn said.