The Delmarva Media Group, publisher of The Eastern Shore News announced a reorganization effort Tuesday. Caught in the fray, two of the Shore’s most beloved journalists, Executive Editor Ted Shockley and Award-winning Eastern Shore News photographer Jay Diem were cut in layoffs this week.
Shockley started with the Eastern Shore News as a freelance stringer in 1990 while he was still a senior in high school. He became an editor of the ‘News’ in 2002 and was named the paper’s Editor in 2005. After the last reorganization, Ted became the executive director of DMG’s whole news-gathering operation.
Back when Ted was at the News, one of my favorite things was to grab that cup of coffee in the morning and read the paper. Almost nothing made me happier than Ted’s columns, which captured the light, sound and joy of living on the Shore like no other. I distinctly remember one piece where he bemoaned the renovation of his favorite dump; with a new fence and shiny new trash bins and a recycling center, for Ted, it had lost all its character—what were all the rats, and stray cats and dogs that he enjoyed watching scurry around the bags of trash going to do now? So many times, Ted’s work would make me smile and chuckle; it rang so true, whether he bluntly stated that he didn’t like Walmart because how can you trust an establishment that sells axle grease and milk in the same place, or how he made you revel in the joy of riding in back of a pickup truck in summer, or how he made you remember just how good a spam sandwich can really can be.
When Ted was reassigned, moved out of the Accomack news office and sent up north, I felt like we had just lost our truest voice. I was sure he would succeed in the ‘big’ newsroom (and by all accounts he did), but for many of us, The Eastern Shore News was never the same.
The trueness of Ted Shockley’s writing, well, the same can be said of Jay Diem’s photography. No matter the moment or event or time of year, Jay always captured the warmth, beauty and unique character of the Eastern Shore. Photojournalism is a strict art form that tells a story, yet demands high levels of honesty, objectivity and impartiality. Jay Diem, as a newsman and storyteller, excelled and brought us unforgettable images. Whether it was the Chincoteague pony swim, the arson fire at The Whispering Pines, or a softball player sliding into second base, Jay always got the right shot.
There a many things I’d like to see happen here, but a book that maybe combined Ted’s homespun stories with Jay’s beautiful photography might be at the top of the list. That’s a comforting thought, but the reality of an Eastern Shore news cycle without Ted and Jay is downright depressing. Sometimes, I just don’t understand what people are thinking, how they can lack such common sense, and just not get it. The Delmarva Media Group may understand profit margins, but they sure don’t know anything about the Eastern Shore of Virginia. If they did, they would go get Ted and Jay, and put them back on the old beat out of the Accomack office.
For now, it’s good-bye old friends. In my heart, I have to believe we will meet again.