John Robinson, former colleague and current friend, announced this week that he’s stepping down as editor of the News & Record in Greensboro, N.C. The news came as a surprise to many, and it prompted me to reflect on Robinson’s influence on journalism and my own career.
My first job after college was in Greensboro as a copy editor. Robinson wasn’t running the News & Record’s newsroom yet, but he was a city editor, assigning stories to reporters and working with them on those assignments.
Robinson was a friend of copy editing and would stop by to chat with those of us working on the nightside. Maybe it was a matter of timing and proximity — his office was adjacent to the copy desk, and he often worked into the evening.
But he had a genuine appreciation for our work, and his sense of humor fit the tone of our desk as well. For those of us learning the culture of a newsroom, he was a great role model: confident, diligent, fair and respectful.
Later, as editor, Robinson pushed the News & Record toward an increasingly local newspaper. He also established himself and the newspaper as prominent players in blogging and other social media. Again, Robinson served as a role model for me (even though I was no longer at the paper) and other journalists.
Robinson and I disagreed at times, most publicly on the need (or not) to copy-edit blog posts on news sites. In that discussion with me and in those with others, Robinson always kept his cool and expressed himself clearly and concisely — a rarity in online conversations.
Robinson also took the time to speak to my editing classes at UNC-Chapel Hill on several occasions. He was a natural in the classroom, engaging students in thought-provoking conversations about news judgment and other topics.
So, thanks, John, for all that you have done for journalism and for me and my students. Best wishes to you on the next adventure in your life.
UPDATE: Robinson is back to blogging at Media, Disrupted.