A Good Look at a Journalistic Throwback

Harwood in years past.

Laurence Hammack’s profile of Doug Harwood (here) in today’s Roanoke daily paper is worth your time. It is a flattering piece about journalist who is firmly grounded in 1947–from both a technological and philosophical view.

I’ve known Doug slightly for a lot of years and never really liked him personally, but I always respected his courage, his commitment and his absolute insistence on doing things his way. He and I are teammates in the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame, he inducted in 2012, I in 2010. We once shared a girlfriend briefly, each to the other’s horror, I suspect.

Doug has steadfastly refused to keep up with technology–even when it helps journalistically–and his monthly tabloid (the Rockbridge Advocate) is available only in print for $3 a copy, or less if you subscribe, as many in Rockbridge County do.

Rockbridge/Lexington/Buena Vista is an odd duck of a semi-rural community. At one time, it had three newspapers and the word was that half the people there had written a book and the other half had never read one. There are, of course, three colleges in the area (VMI, W&L, where Harwood graduated, and Southern Virginia) and both literacy and community involvement are high.

I think Laurence gets a little caught up in the Legend of Doug in the story, which is understandable at a time when journalism, as it is now practiced, is under heavy attack from every angle, even–especially–from the president. I don’t think journalists need to gush over the way things were in the old days any more than we need to be ashamed for doing the best job we can under difficult circumstances. The state of journalism today is not really the fault of journalists. It is about making money and corporate ownership.

I would like to have heard from the former publisher he worked for (the Rockbridge Weekly’s Kitty Sachs, a smart, courageous and honorable woman) and from Matt Paxton of the Lexington News-Gazette, his primary competition. (Story: When Rockbridge County went to 911 emergency calls, it required rural people to name the lanes where they live. Kitty lived on a creek that often flooded. She named her road Lottawater Lane.)

Nit-picking aside, this is a good piece by a solid, sometimes distinguished reporter writing about an independent old-school guy he obviously admires. There’s a lot to be said for that.

(Photo: Rockbridge Advocate.)


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