Journalism matters

DOVER — Wright Robinson has been in my thoughts the last few days.

He was owner, publisher and editor of The Leader, Seaford’s weekly newspaper. His newspaper career spanned nearly eight decades. The man had ink in his blood.

For a short while, I was editor of The Leader & State Register and enjoyed our occasional conversations about our business and its challenges. As editor emeritus, Mr. Robinson was still contributing to our efforts, writing a column up until his death, at the age of 95, in 2003.

“I think local journalism has more of an opportunity to be useful than metropolitan journalism,” Mr. Robinson said in 1997. “People will desert metro papers for the internet and things we’ll be able to get from our little boxes.

“We’ll need voices in our communities for a long, long time.’’

In his remarkable life, he was there when Seaford became “The Nylon Capital of the World” and DuPont’s influence transformed that small agricultural community.

For decades, he chronicled economic development, infrastructure improvements, school progress and day-to-day community involvement the way that newspapers have done for a long, long time and need to continue to do for decades to come.

We recognize — as did Mr. Robinson — that not everyone will want a printed product. But we believe communities will need newspaper people to evolve and continue to meet the needs of citizens.

I wonder what Mr. Robinson would say if I told him I found his first note to readers when he took over ownership of The Leader in 1934. It was on a Facebook page, “Seaford, Delaware, a look back in time.”

“The main duty of a newspaper aside from the dispensing of news is to direct the attention of its readers to a more complete understanding of the problems that confront their community, and do its bit in helping in their solution,” Mr. Robinson wrote.

His words are timeless.

And fitting today as National Newspaper Week begins.

The theme, pitched by the trade organization Newspaper Association Managers: Journalism matters. Now more than ever.

The organization suggests that newspaper editors should use this as an opportunity to promote our government watchdog role, coverage of community events, publications of timely public notices and more.

Thanks to Mr. Robinson, enough has been said about our role and hopefully our continued relevance.

But, we would be foolish to think we have all the answers right now.

This editor would like to ask readers what they think about the newspaper week theme.

Does journalism matter to you?

Does it matter now more than ever?

Are we providing the forum you need to civilly discuss the issues?

What issues are of concern to you?

What do we need to offer that would help make our community a better place to live, work and play?

How can we improve?

Your feedback is greatly appreciated. Email at awest@newszap.com.

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Forgive me for including so much first-person information this week, but my time in Seaford and elsewhere in Sussex County had me thinking that I am one of only a lucky few who has held full-time daily newspaper jobs in all three Delaware counties.

In addition to the Delaware State News, my resume includes time as editor of the Daily Whale in Lewes in the 1990s and a few years as a news assistant in the 1980s at the News Journal in Wilmington. My first full-time job was as an obituary writer for the upstate daily.

A lesson from that time was a memorable line from my grandmother who said she checked the obituaries and hospital admittances in the newspaper every morning. “If my name wasn’t in there,” she said, “I’d put my shoes on and go out to the chicken house.”

That’s one of my fond “Slower Lower” memories. The term, as country singer Jimmie Allen pointed out, is an endearing one.

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Delaware State News Features Editor Craig Horleman, a Wilmington native but Kent Countian by choice, was interviewing Mr. Allen a few days ago when he slipped up and reversed the two words.

The conversation was about Mr. Allen’s four-song set “Slower Lower,” and a video of the title track that was filmed in his hometown of Milton and featured family and friends.

“I don’t know why people always call it ‘Lower Slower.’ Where I come from it’s Slower Lower,”

He went on to say that he sees stickers on cars that say LSD which stands for Lower Slower Delaware.

“That always bugged me,” said Mr. Allen, “and then I found out they were made by a company in Newark. What do they know?”

When asked if he will perform his song “Slower Lower” today in a pre-race concert at Dover International Speedway, Mr. Allen said that he was saving it for shows later in the year in Rehoboth Beach.

“That’s truly Slower Lower,” he said. “Anything from Milford on down I consider Slower Lower. Dover is too far north to qualify.”

***

As an example of efforts to keep citizens informed and engaged, the Delaware State News plans to begin publishing candidates’ answers to our election surveys on Oct. 21. The Delaware State News does not endorse candidates, but believes in sharing all the information it can to help voters prepare for Election Day.

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Last week’s column included dates of the League of Women Voters of Sussex County candidate forums. A big forum coming up for the Kent County chapter is 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17, in the Palmer Room of the Modern Maturity Center, 1121 Forrest Ave., Dover. Invitations have been sent to state legislative candidates in Kent County, Levy Court and county row offices.

Reach Executive Editor Andrew West at awest@newszap.com

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