The journalism community is a very small one.
It is a fraternity. Many of us know one another, whether it be from college, other jobs or from covering events over the years.
Either way, there’s a great deal of crossover.
In my two-plus decades in this business, I’ve met a number of fellow journalists, and I’ve tried to learn a little bit from each one.
One of those journalists was Robert Moore from my last newspaper, the Morristown Citizen Tribune, which is one of sister papers in Tennessee. Bob was our crime reporter, a no-nonsense guy who approached his position – and everyone he interviewed – like it would be his last one.
Now I’ve covered crime beats in the past, but never like he did. I don’t think anyone ever covered crime like Bob Moore did. He was an attack dog who wasn’t afraid to come after anyone – even the police chief, or the county sheriff – to get a story, which is precisely what you’re supposed to do!
Gotta love small towns.
We lost a member of our journalistic family when Bob died on Jan. 11. It came as a shock to me, as it did any time a co-worker you see every day dies suddenly, even though it had been nearly a year since I had seen him.
I had the same reminders of another co-worker over a decade ago, in another city, in another lifetime. Dwight Dana was a longtime reporter for my hometown newspaper, the Morning News, in Florence, South Carolina, and his cubicle was directly in front of mine.
I used to borrow his headphone to listen to music while I wrote feature stories. This was when I was exclusively a sportswriter, covering high school sports, some college and NASCAR when the Southern 500 came to Darlington (excuse me while throw up in my mouth a little).
Dwight was the definition of the classic “Southern gentleman,” about the same age as Bob Moore was at the time, and even looked a lot like him, except for the way he carried himself. He couldn’t have been more opposite.
Dwight was one of my early mentors on the job, even though he didn’t cover sports. He never hesitated to lend a hand, especially when everyone else was too busy to help. He never seemed too busy, and he was always on his own pace, but yet, he always seemed to get the job done.
Dwight Dana’s home had been in his family for generations, and it was in that home where his life ended – suddenly, but heroically. He tragically died in a house fire making an unsuccessful attempt to save his son.
From that day to my last at the Morning News, I would past his empty desk, always expecting him to come back – knowing he wasn’t – waiting for the next lesson about the business, or life.
It was a few weeks before I brought myself to use his headphones again. My co-workers finally convinced it would be okay.
“He would have wanted you to use them Shawn,” they told me. “He was perfectly fine with you using them when he was here.
“They were meant for you.”
Robert Moore and Dwight Dana couldn’t have been more different people. However, they were influential in my development as a journalist – and they will both be forever missed.