Farewell and thanks
Dear Hook readers,
Thank you. Thank you for reading this paper each week, for offering story ideas, for taking our calls and sharing your expertise and opinions as sources in the thousands of stories we have run since this paper launched in 2002. Thank you for writing letters praising or excoriating our work, for commenting on our website. For being part of a local news enterprise that was born of a desire to serve the community. Thank you, also, to Hook advertisers, who invested their hard-earned dollars in our pages and thereby supported the mission of local investigative reporting.
There are several journalists whose work made this final cover story possible, and, incidentally, none have ever worked for the Hook. They were "newsmen" at the Daily Progress in 1963, and the series of stories they penned in the immediate aftermath of the death of beloved local football star Pat Akins provide a historical record of the tragedy and the investigation that followed. Their stories, which bear no bylines, offer a powerful reminder that the role of a journalist is not just to inform the community, not just to serve as a government watchdog, but to create the first draft of history.
In this particular case, with a police file still closed due to the ongoing nature of the investigation even 50 years later, and potential witnesses and story sources scattered around the country or no longer living, the roadmap created by those long-ago newsmen is what allowed one of this town's most skilled present-day journalists, Hook founding editor Hawes Spencer, to piece together the most complete account of the tragic tale that exists to date. It feels appropriate that Spencer, whose vision launched and guided the Hook through its first 11 years, would now help usher it out with the kind of in-depth, investigative story for which the Hook is known.
We hope the history we've documented since 2002 will be a large part of the Hook's legacy, and to that end we have also spent the past week poring over the more than 600 issues that make up our online archive to create the remaining content of this issue— what we're calling "The Hook in Review:" highlights (and lowlights) of Charlottesville history through Hook reporting.
There is temptation to chest-beat over the future of journalism and to focus on the loss of what, for me, has been a second family and a place where I've spent some of the happiest years of my life working alongside talented, passionate reporters. News editor Lisa Provence, who joined the paper with me at its inception, inspired me with her dogged determination to get the tough stories and a work ethic that quite frankly carried this paper through the difficult days following Hawes Spencer's 2012 departure. In addition to her fearless watchdog role that included recent coverage of police shootings and other questionable uses of government power, she also created and wrote "4Better or worse," the weekly round-up of local news, which is the only column to have run in every issue of the Hook.
As reporter and culture editor, Dave McNair brought depth and insight to coverage of diverse events including the 2010 suicide of VQR's managing editor and a hard-hitting series on the politics of trash and recycling. In this issue, he offers a first person account of "becoming a Hook reporter," capturing a sentiment I think all of us in the newsroom share. Beyond the newsroom, the Hook has been filled with passionate, creative individuals who have put their stamp on the publication through their efforts in design and advertising sales.
But the Hook, after all, is a "thing," a corporate entity that must show a healthy profit in order to survive. The spirit of the Hook, however, is the spirit of inquiry and curiosity, and that will live on in those of us who have written in these pages and in anyone else who shares the belief that local investigative journalism is a critical public service.
I have no doubt that the Hook's ending is the beginning of a new chapter in the annals of local media. I don't know how it'll work out, but I'm looking forward to seeing it unfold.
And remember, you CAN handle the truth.