Sep. 11—LUMBERTON — The task of overseeing The Robesonian's news-gathering operations has been given to a man with almost 30 years of experience in the newspaper industry.
David Kennard began his tenure as The Robesonian's executive editor on Monday. He occupies an office that has been vacant since Donnie Douglas left the newspaper in March 2020. Kennard comes to Lumberton from Fayetteville, where he helped launch the Greater Fayetteville Business Journal.
"David brings years of experience, with an understanding of journalism that is of the utmost importance to Robeson County," Publisher Denise Ward said. "We look forward to furthering our commitment to hyperlocal news and community engagement, creating a unique value for our readers and viewers."
Kennard said he was attracted to The Robesonian because of the role it plays in Lumberton and in Robeson County.
"Local, local news; that's what The Robesonian does best," Kennard said. "The newsroom here has a real connection to the community. The journalists here — as well as the advertising staff — provide news stories and services found nowhere else."
Kennard's news career began in 1992 in Quincy, Washington, where he led a small community newspaper. His duties at that paper included reporting and writing news stories, shooting photographs, and preparing news pages for a pressroom that was about an hour away.
"It was a crazy way to be introduced to the world of journalism," Kennard said. "Although looking back, I appreciate having to wear so many hats and learning the process from start to finish."
He continued his on-the-job training at successively larger papers in Oregon, California, Utah and Ohio. Among his past jobs was executive editor of Summerville Communications, based in Charleston, South Carolina, where he managed three nondaily newspapers. He was the executive editor of The Daily Herald in Provo, Utah, and managing editor of Mansfield News Journal/Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum, a 25,000 circulation publication in Mansfield, Ohio.
During his career, Kennard has been honored with many industry awards, including honors from the Associated Press, and state and local news outlets.
"I've been lucky to work with quality people who know what they are doing and love the work," Kennard said. "While I've had a couple of brushes with Pulitzer recognition, so far it's been just out of reach."
While Kennard worked in Provo, Utah, the newsroom there was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for a multi-part series profiling a family who lost two children to a rare form of brain cancer.
"That was a heartbreaking story," Kennard said. "I felt privileged to help the family communicate their grief to the many friends and family in the area."
In Summerville, South Carolina, Kennard worked for a group of family owned papers that included the Post and Courier, which earned the Pulitzer Prize in 2015 for a series titled "Till Death Do Us Part," which dug into South Carolina's ranking as one of the deadliest states in the nation for women. The series sparked state legislation targeting the violence.
"Of course, it's fun to win awards, but the real satisfaction is to know that local journalists like those here at The Robesonian are doing what they can to report relevant news to the communities they serve — everything from covering Friday night football games to sitting through school board budget meetings to celebrating new businesses," he said. "Those ultra local stories are where we live."
During the past decade, as newspapers began reinventing themselves as online platforms, he found himself in a series of shrinking newsrooms, Kennard said.
"It's been a tough adjustment during the last few years for journalists," he said. "I love that newspapers have transformed into online outlets for local news, but while many news organizations have seen readership increase, newsrooms have seen reductions in staff journalists."
Kennard, who grew up in Denver, Colorado, completed his education at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he studied journalism. He also studied communications at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and business management at Ricks College, now BYU-Idaho, in Rexburg, Idaho.
"Our kids say they grew up in Ohio," Kennard said. "I suppose that's close to the truth. We lived in a town north of Dayton for about eight years, which gave them a feel of some stability."
He and his wife of 33 years, Suesan, have four children, all of whom have begun adult lives of their own in various locations throughout the country.
"Columbus, Ohio; Charleston, South Carolina; and southern Idaho," Kennard said. "It's been a while since we've had everyone in the same place at the same time."
Outside the newsroom, his interests include history, photography, mountain biking and hiking.