A calm, reasoned voice.
All of the editors involved in the decision to add William Raspberry's column to The Register-Guard's editorial pages are gone, but all who followed owed them a debt for their good judgment. From April 1981 until this past Monday, Raspberry provided Register-Guard readers with commentary that was thoughtful, humane and constructive.
Time magazine once called Raspberry "the most respected black voice on any white U.S. newspaper." That may have been meant as a compliment, but the magazine missed the mark. Raspberry was more than a black voice - he was an American voice, a human voice. Readers might not have been aware of his race until they noticed his ability to speak with authority about issues of concern to the African-American community. Even then, his perspective was entirely his own.
Raspberry was a generalist in his choice of topics, but in his later years he often focused on issues relating to education and the family; his own experience growing up as the son of teachers in Mississippi convinced him of the importance of both. But whatever the topic, it was Raspberry's approach that made his columns distinctive. He was even-handed, ready to question his own assumptions and willing to give opposing views a fair hearing. He rejected certitude and orthodoxy in favor of the journalist's most important tool - an open mind. Raspberry visited Eugene a couple of times, and proved to be the same man in person as he was in print.
Raspberry's retirement comes after 43 years at The Washington Post, during which he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary and many other awards. Retirement isn't really the right word. As he informed readers in his farewell column on Monday, he intends to direct his energies toward improving education for children in his home town of Okolona, Miss.
Eugene Robinson will take Raspberry's place in The Register-Guard's lineup of columnists. His inaugural column appears today.
In his 25 years at The Washington Post, Robinson has been a reporter, city editor, foreign correspondent (Buenos Aires and London), foreign editor and editor of the Style section. He has written books on race in Brazil and music in Cuba.
Robinson can't replace Raspberry, but he brings to his writing the same interest in exploring the intersection of politics and culture. We'll know in 25 years whether Robinson has Raspberry's staying power.
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|Title Annotation:||Editorials; Columnist William Raspberry retires|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Dec 31, 2005|
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