We at The Lincoln County News are mourning today the loss of Publisher Emeritus Sam Roberts.
I knew Sam for a relatively brief time, having started work here in May 2010.
During my time as editor, Sam would come into my office from time to time and sit down.
Sometimes we would talk about the Maine Press Association. I am on the board now, while Sam was its president nearly a half-century ago.
Sometimes he would have some small criticism about the most recent newspaper or suggestion for the next.
Sometimes he would talk about his various ailments, a source of frustration for him the last year or two.
Most often, however, Sam would dispense the same few pieces of advice.
1. Be concise.
Appropriately, he would often make this point without words. He would hold his hands a foot or so apart and bring them together, as if to say: condense. Cut. Less is more.
(Sam would disapprove of the article on the front page on these grounds. It is an ongoing challenge.)
2. Avoid big words.
A reader should never have to use a dictionary, Sam would say. I remember this advice every time I have to check the definition of a word. Then I change the word.
3. No cute headlines!
I think Sam attributed most of the struggles of newspapers in the 21st century to “clever” headlines: puns and the like.
A headline should be straightforward: Car hits tree. House burns down. Politician wins re-election.
You will not find many “clever” headlines in The Lincoln County News, and not just because the editor is too slow to think of them.
Of all the initiatives and organizations Sam dedicated himself to, none outranked the newspaper. It was his earliest and last professional concern.
During the last couple conversations I had with Sam, he would add a direction to his usual advice.
“Take care of my newspaper,” he would say.
We will do our best.