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Elizabeth Cook: Homer would have been proud

I’m turning into Homer Lucas.

For those who have not been around here long, Homer was a longtime reporter for the Salisbury Post. He covered politics and county government for a long time, until the beat was passed on me around 1980. Homer continued to work for the Post, collecting deeds and other records, writing columns (often about “the great pee-pul”) and keeping us informed about the word on the street.

Homer retired, but he was like a member of the family to the Hurleys, who owned the paper then. So he kept coming to the office and keeping us informed until several months before he died in 1998, at the age of 84.

I never told Homer any morsel of news he didn’t already know. He hung out at the coffee shops and knew everything that was going on in town.

Anyway, when I started working at the Post not too long after graduating from college, I knew everything. And I was certain that after a few years I would be gone from the Post, following my aspirations to a big metro newspaper.

I was not going to be like Homer, still working at the same newspaper decades later.

Homer gets the last laugh on that subject.

One of our annual rites in the newsroom is going to the N.C. Press Association Winter Institute to pick up awards for our work. The greatest award is the approval of our readers and the success of the newspaper. But, like most people, we like to get feedback from our peers. 

Homer didn’t let the feedback stop at the awards ceremony in Chapel Hill or with the news story telling readers about our awards. He wrote a column each year telling readers what the judges said about our work.

If we didn’t toot our horn, Homer said, no one would do it for us.

You’ll find a twist on that advice in Mark Wineka’s feature in today’s Post about Ted Goins. The president and CEO of Lutheran Services Carolinas, Ted quotes this advice from his father: “He who tooteth his own horn has nothing to toot.”

That’s OK. I’m channeling Homer today, not Ted or his father.

I might be channeling Rose Post, too — another great reporter of years gone by — because I’m taking a  long time to get around to my point.

I think I could pass muster with Mr. Goins, because I’m not going to toot my own horn.

At the ceremony in Chapel Hill, awards were given out by newspaper. The time came to give the Salisbury Post staff our awards.

The first time the announcer said “Mark Wineka,” he asked if he had pronounced the name correctly. The audience chuckled and the announcer said something like, you’ll soon know why this is important. Then he proceeded to call out all the other awards Mark won, one by one, announcing his name each time.

Shades of Jan Brady talking about “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.” It was “Mark Wineka, Mark Wineka, Mark Wineka.” Jeez.

Mark won six awards, more than the rest of us put together. On second thought, he is the one channeling Rose, because she consistently brought home lots of awards, too.

On Mark’s first-place entry in the sports columns category, the judge wrote something worth sharing:

“Mercy rule here. This set of columns is not only the best in the division, but one of the best regardless of circulation. I hope this community appreciates this guy; his nose for interesting angles is impressive and his execution solid.”

On another — first place, arts and entertainment reporting, for a story on “Pop’s picking place” — the judge said:  “This story is magical. Wineka made me feel like I was in the room. Great color; well organized.”

This is not to slight other Post staff members who won awards — Deirdre Parker Smith, Andy Mooney, Shavonne Walker and Emily Ford (who now works for Duke University). 

We’re proud of them all.

But that line — “I hope this community appreciates this guy” — jumped out. We are fortunate to have a writer and reporter of Mark’s caliber at the Post. He’s someone who definitely could have moved to a bigger paper long ago.

We’re glad he did not.

Elizabeth Cook is editor of the Salisbury Post.

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