an ode to a great guy and a great editor

by Michael O. Allen on December 4, 2008

I arrived at the Burlington Free Press in Vermont 20 years ago almost to the day.

I stayed in Vermont for almost two years, first visiting frequently after leaving, then those visits peterring out to where I have not been to Vermont in several years now. As it turned out, my Vermont time was a wonder time. I met many great people, people that I remain immensely fond of to this day.

One of my early editors was Rob Eley. Rob was tough but fair. Invariably, Rob would be on the desk when I called cop shops around the region and banged out stories late at night. Though we were on deadline, it was never a tense situation because Rob, in his soft-spoken way, eased the tension.

He might occasionally start a koosh war and he would give as good as he got but it was always in good fun. And the paper got out on time.

When I later graduated to a beat covering development and the environment, Rob was both my champion and an advocate for my work. He always had my back, even when he was not directly editing me.

I left the Free Press, traveled far and wide, and covered many stories over the past two decades, worked with many, many newspaper editors. Rob, besides being a great human being, was also my yardstick of what a good editor should be.

I did not meet many who measured up.

I don’t know why but I’ve never told Rob any of this. I am writing this now because a friend left me a note saying Rob has been laid off.

Newspapers are in the process of mastering the impossible: putting out the paper without reporters (it’s easy: just have someone out in Bangalore working for pennies watch a video of the council meeting and write a story).

But I never thought they would try to put out the paper without good editors.

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