West Virginia Press Convention

2014 WVPA Premier Journalist: Dave Hedges


David Hedges 1
2014 WVPA Premier Journalist David Hedges of the Spencer Newspapers

DAVIS, W.Va. – David Hedges, publisher of Spencer Newspapers in Spencer, W.Va., was honored with the Adam R. Kelly Premier Journalist Award by the West Virginia Press Association during its annual convention at Canaan Valley Resort on August 9.

Hedges, an award-wnning editor, columnist and writer, was selected for the 2014 award due to his unwavering commitment to newspapers in the state, the West Virginia Press Association and to his local community.

The highest individual honor bestowed by the state’s oldest press organization, The Adam R. Kelly Premier Journalist Award was established in 1991 in memory of the late Adam R. Kelly, legendary “country editor” columnist and former owner of the Tyler Star News in Sistersville, W.Va.

Kelly was known nationally for his outstanding service to newspapers, and the award seeks to honor those outstanding newspapermen that dedicate themselves to a career of community betterment.

A committee of WVPA past presidents selects the annual honoree from an ongoing list of nominations made by journalists and other individuals.

For Dave Hedges, journalism is a family business and a life-long commitment.

Hedges’ father, G.F. Hedges Jr., founded Spencer Newspapers, Inc., in 1962. The move consolidated ownership two long-standing Spencer publications: The Times Record and Roane County Reporter. Hedges took up a part-time job at the family business while attending college at West Virginia University. He later joined the staff full-time in 1982, and became managing editor in 1986. One year later, Hedges took over as publisher, a title he still holds at the award-winning publications today.

While maintaining the business side of the newspapers as publisher, Hedges has continued as a writer, columnist and photographer, and been recognized by the WVPA for excellence in a variety of competition categories. His work has contributed to the newspaper’s winning of the WVPA’s General Excellence Award in the “large weeklies” division for two consecutive decades.

Kate Burbank, a resident of Spencer and retired WVU Extension Agent, has known Hedges in both a business and personal capacity for more than 25 years.

“I think the thing that people take for granted about their community newspaper is how much work it takes each week to get the news to us,” said Burbank. “When I think about that, I reflect on the countless hours that David has worked to see the residents of Spencer and Roane County stay abreast of local developments. From county commission and board of education meetings to colorful courtroom battles, David works tirelessly each week to provide all of that information to his community.

“Having been in some of those meetings myself, I know that David’s writing reflects an immense attention to detail and accuracy that not only serves the greater good of the public, but also has the uncanny ability to make readers feel as though they were there themselves. David Hedges has a true commitment to his community, and his daily actions as a newspaperman reflect the care and passion he possesses for the town he has dedicated his life to.”

Dave Corcoran, publisher of the Glenville Democrat and Pathfinder and past president of the WVPA, noted Hedges’ efforts and a publisher and editor:

“I’ve observed Dave Hedges closely over the past 19 years asI have my newspapers printed by him at his Spencer printing plant. What impresses me about Dave is that he’s a working publisher, who writes a wide variety of stories for every week’s edition of The Roane County Recorder-Spencer News, in addition to his regular column on editorial page, which is excellent each week. He’s not an off-and-on writer and commentator, but his very high journalistic fabric demands that he pen superior articles, columns and editorials in each week’s edition.”

Don Smith, executive director of the WVPA, said Hedges helped set the tone for the association:

Years ago, when I first came on the board, I didn’t know any of the other board member very well. It was Dave and Starr Hedges who, at our first retreat,  invited me and the other board members to their suite to socialize talk and relax. They treated us like family. He understood the importance of reaching out to new members. Much of what we try to do at the WVPA today in terms of outreach to new members and convention attendees and with event planning is based on what Dave and Starr started years ago on their own. As an association, we owe the Hedges family a great deal. Dave is a great example as a person, as a family man and as a journalist.”

During the Premier Journalist presentation, Smith read the following portions from one of Hedge’s award-winning columns:

“I guess it’s just in people’s nature to choose up sides. Whether it’s a football game or a political race, folks seem to like to pick a favorite and pull for them. It happens in court cases as well.Some people believe anyone charged with a crime must be guilty. Others think the system is out of whack, and anyone charged has to be innocent.  A lot of people don’t even need to hear the evidence. They make up their minds pretty early. …

In any event, this case never came to trial. The judge dismissed the charges. That probably didn’t make many people, on either side, change their minds.

The whole case was a learning experience in prejudices of one kind or another involving religion, sex abuse and even the police and court system. In the end, all of these notions should be put aside, and the only cause any of us should be rooting for is justice.

So now comes the real question some of you who have made it this far may be wondering. What do I think really happened in this case?

Sometimes when you cover a case, you develop opinions. And in spite of what some may believe, you can also follow a case without coming to a conclusion.

In either instance, it is possible to present an unbiased account. I’ll let others decide if that was done this time.

As for my own prejudices and thoughts, like any other case in the courts, I can only root for truth to come out as the winner.”

Smith added that, with selection of Hedges as the 2014 Premier Journalist, “the West Virginia Press Association was also a winner.”

In the nearly three decades that Hedges has worked as publisher of Spencer Newspapers, he also served as a part president of the WVPA and two-time board member, a member of the board of directors for Roane General Hospital and the Roane County Emergency Squad, and president of both the Roane County Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club of Spencer. A faithful congregant of the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, Hedges has served on the finance committee, pastoral council and as men’s club treasurer.

Hedges and his wife Starr celebrated 31 years of marriage in February, a dozen of which Starr has spent working with Hedges in the Spencer Newspapers’ business office. They have three children, Chad Board, Andrew Hedges and Marie Hedges, and three grandchildren.

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