A familiar saying when a famous person dies is “the passing of an era.” In Dave Peyton’s case, that is partially true. The news business is changing, and Dave definitely was a man of his time and a man for his time.
The way the news business is going, we may never see another Dave Peyton. Or, for that matter, Ernie Salvatore, Tom Miller, Bill Belanger or Tim Massey. They were lifelong journalists who readers associated with their local newspaper. They earned their reputations over time by providing readers with what they needed and what they wanted.
Tim could tell a story like no one else. Ernie dished out insider information from the sports world. Tom was unparalleled in his coverage of the Capitol. Bill knew what was happening in the fine arts.
Dave was an irascible, cranky columnist who dished out unfiltered opinions on politics, labor, education, business, nature and other topics. You name it, Dave probably had an opinion. And half our readers probably didn’t like it. But that didn’t bother Dave. Dave feasted on stirring the pot. It was his job, and he did it well.
There were other lifers, of course. They all made The Herald-Dispatch newsroom a great place to learn a trade and, for us younger folks, to work on growing up.
Most of the lifers from that era have retired or passed away. Several are still in the area and are active in news or media in some form. I would name names, but I don’t want to offend anyone by overlooking them.
The other day on social media, someone referred to me as the last of the old guard at The Herald-Dispatch. Lucky for me, Tim Stephens is still around to share memories and dad jokes and stuff. If he weren’t here, this old guy would get lonely.
There’s an old saying that takes several forms, but it boils down to this: If I have seen farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants. Tim Stephens and I have been blessed to have worked with, along or under some of the newsroom giants of the past.
Like any other business, the news business needs skilled people with long memories — people who connect with readers and give them reasons to buy the newspaper; who consider their work to be an art, a craft and a responsibility instead of a commodity to be thrown onto a web page for clicks.
Time, economic realities and short-sighted business decisions of the past have forced many of those people out of the newsroom. Part of my job here in this era is to be the bridge between the Peyton-Miller-Salvatore-Massey-Belanger era and the new generation of young journalists.
I explain how we covered big events in the past or how we approached a seemingly routine news story. I tell them over and over about the time I used the phrase “brand new” in a story and an editor let me know — loudly, so others would get the message, too — that there is no such thing as “brand new.” It’s an advertising phrase, so don’t use it, she said. That’s what I tell these youngsters today, and I’ll keep telling them until I don’t have to tell them anymore.
In the old days, buying a newspaper was almost a necessity or a civic obligation. Today we have to fight for market share and prove our value daily. The giants aren’t around to help us. Their era is gone. Now we see if this generation is ready to climb up on some shoulders.