As friends and family said goodbye to Don Eddins just a few weeks ago, I was left to think about how much that word applies to journalism today.
Goodbye to those journalists who soldiered covering stories from Watergate to the Ukraine invasion.
Goodbye to a news culture that thrived on information rather than emotion.
Goodbye to words that engaged rather than clickbait that enraged.
I recognize that change is inevitable, and I realize that the good old days are not coming back, nor should they. But it does not make the goodbye any easier.
We are not only saying goodbye to a culture and a tradition, but we’re saying goodbye to people — to journalists who committed themselves to providing citizens with the information they needed to make informed decisions.
People like Don Eddins.
Don bracketed his journalism experience around a stint with the Alabama Education Association, along with studying for a law degree and practicing law. Before that, he was state editor for the Columbus Ledger and state capital correspondent for the Huntsville Times.
After that, he co-founded the Auburn Villager in 2006, and returned to the profession he had prepared for as an Auburn journalism major.
That was how I got to know Don and Nikki Eddins. I had returned to Auburn in 2003 to teach in the journalism program. Another local news outlet is always a good thing; residents get more coverage. Nothing wrong with that.
I have subscribed to the Villager since then and saw Don frequently. Every time, it seems like his greeting was the same: “Send me interns!” We sent him not only interns, but staff members. Brian Woodham, Allison Clark Blankenship, contributions from Mark Murphy, and yes, interns.
And the Villager earned a reputation for old-school strong local coverage, particularly of the City of Auburn and the various functions of the City Council and city departments. Auburn residents needed to understand what was going on, particularly as it related to the growth downtown, and the Villager delivered.
But such is what happened at American local newspapers for decades, even centuries. As newspapers have transitioned from local ownership to public stock and hedge fund control, that mission has been lost in the drive for profit.
To the hedge fund vampires, local newspapers are meant to be bled for quick profit. They and their so-called “news executives” do not care about the news. The only paper they care about is colored green. So many committed journalists operate under the burden of such short-sighted leadership.
But the Villager is locally owned. Don and Nikki assumed full ownership in 2019, and Nikki will continue in that role. That is why the Villager can continue in its local news mission — a tribute to its founders.
We might have said goodbye to Don, but there is no reason to say goodbye to the values he lived by. They are independent of the medium, whether print, broadcast, Internet or social media.
The legacy of journalists like Don Eddins is under attack today, through the rage machine that powers so much of broadcast information. (I can’t call it “news.”) The future of news is only secured if today’s practitioners remember those, like Don, who laid the foundation.
John, this is an excellent column on Don and the value of having a locally owned newspaper. Thanks for writing it. Ralph Morris
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