A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

SDX Awards: Newspaper general column writing, Doug Robinson

By Quill

The girl who grew up down the street now carries an M-16 with her everywhere she goes instead of school books and a racquet.

The girl down the street has traded her jeans for B.D.U.s (battle dress uniform), accessorized by a Kevlar vest and helmet.

The girl is Holly Segura, who grew up down the street from Doug Robinson, a staff columnist for the Deseret Morning News. Segura is now a young woman stationed near Baghdad and the inspiration behind “War hits home for girl down street.”

Despite the column’s heavy subject, each day Robinson brings abrupt topic changes.

For example, Robinson offered 2004 high school graduates, “Geekdom inevitable for grads.” He gave them this advice:

Don’t smoke. Smokers are modern-day leper colonies, banished to alleyways behind their workplace. There’s just no tactful way to say this: Anyone who starts smoking now with all that’s known about tobacco these days is an idiot.

The variety of subjects and tones even surprised Robinson.

“I seem to do a weird mix of columns – serious, humorous, personal, first-person or a mix of all of the above,” he said. “Sometimes I wonder if I should stick to one shtick, but it just doesn’t seem to happen.”

The surrounding community inspires Robinson.

“Salt Lake City and Utah have, as is often pointed out, a sometimes-quirky culture that is distinctly their own,” said John Hughes, editor and chief operation officer, “and Doug Robinson’s column is an equally quirky mirror.”

Robinson said his 2004 work provided readers with a brief bit of entertainment.

“The bottom line is that, yes, we strive to inform the public as journalists, but we’re also in the entertainment business, too,” he said. “I believe that half of good writing is merely having some innate passion to tell a story and tell it right.”

Judges said that Robinson’s clear, impassioned writing provided universal appeal.

“In particular, the panel of judges agreed that his column, ‘War hits home for girl down the street’ might be the single-most notable in the competition,” said the judges. “The girl down the street, a symbol of the war out there coming down to our neighborhood, is presented in such a familiar setting that every American could visualize the reach of the global conflict in one’s personal space of life.”