60 years in the news business

I've been in the newspaper racket for 40 years.

I still remember the thrill of picking up a copy of the The Daily, the campus newspaper at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and seeing my name screaming from the lead at the top of the fold. I wrote a story on an appearance on campus by Allan Bakke, the white California man who set off a legal firestorm when he challenged affirmative action policies and claimed reverse discrimination in the admissions policies of that state's universities.

That was my first real newspaper gig. I was what is called in the business a "stringer." In other words, a freelancer, someone who gets paid by the story. That is opposed to being on staff, when you receive a weekly salary.

Barbara Ormsby knows a little bit about being a "stringer."

After all, she's been doing it for almost 60 years.

That's correct. Six decades.

Barbara is one of our longtime loyal corps of correspondents, those stringers who become our eyes and ears in the community. For Barbara, that meant Ridley, Ridley Park, Eddystone, Morton and the Ridley School District. If something was going on in those towns, Barbara knew about it.

It was my honor recently to actually get out of the office and attend a Delaware County Press Club luncheon to honor the woman we lovingly refer to as "Barbie O."

A lot has changed in the newspaper business in the four decades I have been toiling in it.

One thing has not.

People like Barbara Ormsby - and the rest of the stringers we use to cover Delaware County's 49 municipalities and 15 public school districts, to say nothing of the private schools, are an essential part of community journalism.

One of the things that has changed in this business are the economic frailties of a system that has put increasing pressure on us to reduce costs. One area where that is evident is in the reduced use of stringers like Barb.

As the Washington Post now observes, "Democracy Dies in Darkness."

I can tell you that it is getting darker out here every day.

I don't think we realize what we are in danger of losing.

People like Barbara Ormsby are simply irreplaceable.

I talk about it in today's weekly Letter From the Editor.