Heeding my first editor’s advice






I’m not big on writing about myself but sometimes you’ve got to be your own press agent.

The picture tells the story, but I’ll add one of my own.

Forty-five years ago, when I started my journalism career, Fred Hartmann, the metropolitan editor of the Wilmington News Journal, gave me the same advice that he must have dispensed to every young reporter he hired. Since it’s been 45 years, I’ll paraphrase. The message was essentially this: “Every story you write should be so clear that if a stranger gets off the train and picks up the paper at the station, he’ll understand exactly what you’re writing about.”

If it were that easy, Fred wouldn’t have had to give that advice so often.

When I stepped forward recently at the Delaware Press Association awards dinner to receive my certificates, the presenter read some of the comments on my entries from the contest judges.

The judge who read my continuing coverage of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission wrote: “I know nothing about Wilmington or its schools, but this clearly-written piece told the entire story, one that is occurring throughout the country. Excellent reporting, fact-gathering, and presentation.”

The judge who read my articles on historic preservation stated: “I live out of state and know nothing about this old school, zoning laws, historic preservation practices there, yet I had no trouble understanding all sides of the issue. You did a very good job of explaining it all. You used input from public officials, developers, governmental bodies, etc. It was a pleasure to read. “

As I listened to those comments, my thoughts went back to Fred Hartmann. He set a standard for his reporters to meet — and here I am, 45 years later, achieving exactly what he wanted me to do.

I’m happy to share a few of the prize-winning pieces with you.

Here are the recollections of two key figures during the struggle to desegregate New Castle County schools in the 1970s and a look at how those schools appear to be resegregated today. And here’s a status report on the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission from last July. (Not much has changed since then.)

There are a lot of great historic preservation advocates in Delaware, and I enjoy talking to them. Sometimes they succeed in their efforts, and sometimes they’re beaten by more powerful forces, including a not-so-accidental form of inertia called “demolition by neglect.” Here’s a look at the challenges preservationists face.

Thanks for reading this blog … and my earlier posts. And thanks for your continuing interest in what I write. It affirms the importance of my efforts, and reinforces my commitment to write clearly and accurately whenever I put my fingers on the keyboard.








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