First Posted: 1/15/2009
Shortly I will speak glowingly of Bob Horne, The Robesonian's managing editor who is putting a 30 with a slash through it at the end of his career on Tuesday. But my nature doesn't allow me to do that without first doing this.
It wasn't long ago that Bob and I were discussing Matt Doherty, the former North Carolina basketball coach, during a morning planning session. Bob was struggling to remember details of an interview he had conducted with Doherty when Bob worked as a sports writer.
“Bob, I've got bad news,” I said. “You never interviewed Matt Doherty. You weren't a sports writer from 1980 to 1984, when Doherty played at Carolina.”
“Are you sure?” Bob asked. “I could have sworn I did.”
“But Bob, there is some good news. At least you can't remember stuff that never happened.”
That marked the rare occasion that I changed Bob's mind about anything. And the fact that I knew his career perhaps as well as he did is because we have spent 15 of the last 20 years in the same newsroom.
You can cuss Bob or give him credit, but he's the reason I'm here. In 1983, shortly after Bob became editor of this newspaper, he made me his first hire, giving me a real job, as a sports writer, and making my parents very happy. If not for Bob's bold -- if not shrewd -- move, I might be gumming crackers and swigging MD 20/20 while living under an overpass.
Bob promoted me enough times that I was managing editor when I fled this newspaper on March 12, 1990. Bob would flee shortly after I did, to work as editor of the Brunswick Beacon before joining me at the Fayetteville Observer.
I returned here as editor on Nov. 4, 1996, and I repaid Bob in 2000 when I gave him a job, as managing editor.
There is no one -- not my parents, not even a wife if I had one -- with whom I have had more heated disagreements than Bob Horne. But I was eager to return him to The Robesonian because I knew he would make this newspaper better.
Bob began his journalism career the hard way, as a stringer. In the 38 years since, he has held various jobs at nine newspapers: besides the Brunswick Beacon, Fayetteville Observer and The Robesonian, he has worked at the Laurinburg Exchange, Jacksonville Daily News, Raleigh Times, The Greenville News in Greenville, S.C., the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro and the Enquirer-Journal in Monroe.
I've been Bob's boss the last three years, which could have been awkward given that we had switched seats. Things have gone remarkably well, however, and whatever degree of success you will concede this newspaper, give a big chunk of it to Bob.
Although I am his boss until Tuesday, I accept that Bob taught me much more about journalism than I have taught him. And the lessons haven't been limited to the difference between affect and effect.
Bob taught me how necessary policies are. He taught me that a story is incomplete if it is not balanced, and that every effort has to be made to get the other side of the story. He taught me to treat everyone the same. And he taught me to tell the truth.
The late 1980s were troubling times in Robeson County, and Bob, as editor of this newspaper, took some brave and necessary stances that were not always popular. There is no doubt that Bob paid a price professionally for some of his decisions because he angered the wrong people.
That, and Bob's integrity, are likely reasons Bob is not retiring next week as editor of this newspaper. In 1990, when this newspaper's leadership was changing, Bob refused to change with it, choosing instead to hold fast to his principles.
Ten years later, Bob was able to return to his hometown newspaper. And now he will retire to a community that he has served well as a journalist. That's as it should be.
-- -- --
I wish that the woman who called me on Monday and left a voice mail in which she called me “insensitive” would have left a phone number.
I would call her and say thank you -- not for calling me insensitive, but for making me understand that she might not be the only one who misunderstood the intent behind the headline of Sunday's editorial, “Gator stew.”
The editorial was about Florida officials' reaction last week to the death of a 12-year-old boy who was killed by an alligator. “Stew” was not used as a noun in the headline, but rather as a verb.
My intent was to point out that the people in Florida were stewing -- as in fretting -- over alligators.
In hindsight, the headline was ambiguous. I am guilty of writing a bad headline, but I would never make light of such a tragedy.