Congratulations ! Bill Kerbin !!
I found this article yesterday (written Feb. 9) and thought that maybe there were a lot of people that weren't aware that the quiet Bill Kerbin is somewhat a celebrity. It makes me feel so good when I see that the people I saw on a daily basis working in downtown Pocomoke finally get some recognition they so richly deserve. This article says it all of the wonderful person he is.
I searched for a follow up article on the awards ceremony and dinner but I just figured perhaps Bill hasn't written it yet.
Newspapering is in his family. The Democratic Messenger, owned by his father since the mid-1940s, was his first taste of the work; he was stuffing inserts into papers when he was 8 years old. He interned with Salisbury’s The Daily Times as a young man as well, and by the early 1970s, he was reporting on Worcester County news.
When a businessman and Virginia politician, George McGrath, purchased the Messenger and combined it with a Worcester newspaper he already owned, the Pocomoke Democrat, Kerbin became the combined paper’s founding editor. He continued to report and write stories, and “he took a hell of a lot of pictures,” said his sister, Charlotte K. Cathell. His centrally located office had a wide-open-window’s view of the town’s daily life.
Residents, colleagues and friends say Kerbin – also a former MDDC board member – practiced community journalism before anyone thought to call it by that name. “He was always noted for his involvement with the community. He not only reported the news; he was always there to help and support nonprofit organizations,” said Gee Williams, who worked as an editor alongside Kerbin in the newspaper group for 20 years.
“No news story was too big or too small, ever”, Williams said. “He definitely was a classic community journalist that way. He not only knew the issues in those communities; he knew the people.”
Curt Lippoldt came to know Kerbin not long after Lippoldt moved to Pocomoke City in 1971. Lippoldt would become Pocomoke’s mayor, from 1986 to 1998, and he says Kerin managed well a challenge familiar to any small-town journalist: fairly covering an acquaintance who happens to be in politics. “I really liked the way he reported,” Lippoldt said. “Nothing can be more boring to citizens than city council meetings, but he wrote it in a very interesting style. We have a very informed citizenry thanks to Bill’s style of writing about civic affairs.”
Through the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s, Kerbin oversaw the coverage of a county that was changing rapidly; more houses being built; more businesses extending their reach; and more being demanded of local government by voters. Kerbin witnessed “the growth of county government,” says Williams, who is now mayor of Berlin.
“It went from being very parochial and very limited as the ‘70s were beginning to much more what we understand today” – expected to help attract high-tech jobs, prevent violent crime and the spread of drugs, and manage intense growth pressures while preserving the natural environment. “The tremendous progress of the local schools – he covered a lot of that,” Williams said, along with the efforts to restore and revitalize historic downtown Snow Hill and Pocomoke.
Kerbin was as active in civic life as he could be without holding public office himself. A leading layperson in his church, he also belonged to the Rotary and today is involved with the Relay for Life, a cancer fundraiser. But, Lippoldt said, he held apart enough his civic engagements and his duties to readers to present the best news he could. “I never, ever found one inkling that what he reported was influenced by what he said or did,” said Lippoldt. “He never editorialized.”
The semi-retired Kerbin still covers Pocomoke City government and community news for MDDC member paper, the Worcester County Times, a descendant of the Messenger.
Kerbin will be (was) honored at the Hall of Fame Dinner taking place Thursday, April 21, 2011, in conjunction with MDDC's Annual Awards Assembly.