Sometimes Monday mornings can be difficult. There are too many emails that need to be dealt with; too many stories that need to be written; and sometimes, too much sadness.
That was the case Monday, when Napa Valley Register editor Sean Scully sent the following email at 9:46 a.m:
“Ethan Robinson’s sister emailed me this morning to report that Ethan died last week from complications of a heart condition. I relayed to her our sorrow at the news and told her how much we all liked and admired Ethan, who was a genuinely good person and a great colleague. We don’t have any information on services or memorial contributions.”
Robinson’s sister, Amber Robinson-Messerer, said that Ethan “really enjoyed his time at the Register and cared about you folks who he worked with. Please let the staff know and that we thank you all for being a part of his wonderful life.”
You didn’t see Robinson’s byline in the pages of any of our publications as he was a copy editor, a person who read the copy of all of us writers: myself, Jesse and Tom for the Star; Anne for the Calistogan; and all the writers in Napa.
Ethan was in his mid-30s and had worked for us for more than three years, leaving last August.
He worked at the Napa Valley Register offices and each of us remembers getting a phone call from him, as he was reading our copy: “Hey, Dave, are you sure about this?” or “Is this the way that name should be spelled?” He made our copy better and clearer and was one of the unsung heroes in the newsroom.
After reading Scully’s email, sports reporter Yousef Baig wrote, “He literally towered above us in the newsroom, in his professionalism and dedication to his craft and, now, in eternity. Rest easy, big guy. He will be sorely missed by all that were lucky enough to know him.”
What Yousef writes makes sense, because Ethan had to be nearly 7 feet tall: when he came to our office, he had to duck under the doorframes, otherwise, he would hit his head.
Andy Wilcox, another sports reporter, sent the following email: “Ethan was very smart, well-read guy with a great sense of humor who never had a bad attitude. Such a pleasure to have known and worked with.”
And reporter Howard Yune writes, “If I may use a basketball metaphor, Ethan was the ultimate ‘glue guy’ — non-flashy, unfussy, and quietly competent at his craft, and above all a good colleague in all conditions.”
Services will be sometime this summer near his Kelseyville home. At that time, I expect the Star and Calistogan offices will be closed and the newsroom of the Napa Valley Register will be empty so we all may pay our respects to a colleague who died too young and will never be forgotten.
On to another topic, please.
Julie Spencer, executive director of the Rianda House Senior Activity Center, and I had a disturbing conversation last Friday. Most disturbing, but I brought it up. If we are to believe our president, the media can’t be trusted and is the enemy.
Well, sure, maybe we don’t believe what we read in the Washington Post or New York Times – especially on Washington politics, because nobody understands those anyway, or what’s printed on the opinion pages, because those papers, its reporters and editors are liberal Democrats who are gunning for the president as hard as he is gunning for them.
We may not believe the news reports with the unnamed sources, and we may be tired of reporters questioning what the president says.
As a reporter and editor, though, I don’t use unnamed sources. I also don’t like to hear a story that’s “off the record.” Because, if it’s “off the record,” I can’t use it and therefore, it is a waste of my time.
What we’re talking about is credibility; mine as a reporter and editor, and the Star’s credibility as a newspaper. We take what we do very seriously. We cover meetings, to hear the decisions of our city officials firsthand. We attend events to cover them, to find out what’s going on and then we tell you. We seek to quote our sources accurately and if we don’t, we’re quick to write a correction.
If we make too many mistakes, sooner or later, you’ll stop believing us.
And, if that happens, will you stop believing what is printed in the pages of the Star? If my credibility is damaged beyond repair, you may not believe anything I write or you may question it. (And it’s likely I’ll be fired.) If the newspaper’s credibility is shot, then will you believe a community news brief about an upcoming event being held at the Rianda House? Or will you question that, too?
If that happens, then we’re all in trouble.