Brian Kelley, an editor on our metro desk, is the winner of this year’s Rugaber Prize (named after former publisher Walter Rugaber), awarded annually to a staff member in our newsroom whose work in the previous year “displayed, day in and day out, an intense curiosity, a depth of understanding, and an enterprising drive to discover unique and significant stories.”
Kelley, who has worked at the paper as an editor and a reporter since 1993, leads a team of seven news reporters covering Roanoke and the surrounding localities. He lives in Roanoke with his wife and two sons and volunteers for a variety of community of organizations, including the Boy Scouts of America and the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club. Before coming to
The Roanoke Times, he worked at the Daily Press in Newport News, The Richmond Times-Dispatch and The Potomac News in Northern Virginia.
When presenting him the award on Thursday, Editor Carole Tarrant noted that when it comes to journalism, Kelley embraces new digital tools while preserving the traditional standards of journalism.
“As a team leader on the metro desk, he’s an air traffic controller juggling incoming assignments, reporter schedules and demanding bosses who are forever looking for Virginia centerpieces,” she told the staff. “This intense multitasking has always been the life of a metro team leader. But in recent years, we’ve added yet another layer to this demanding job: immediacy. We, those demanding bosses, want it all now, and on multiple channels. We put a lot on the shoulders of our Rugaber winner, true, but we believe he intuitively understands the reasons why. We want it now because it needs to be now for us to survive, thrive and beat our competition.”
Kelley, never one to seek attention, was visibly touched by the recognition though he appeared slightly embarrassed by the attention at the ceremony.
In an email sent a few hours after receiving the award, Kelley thanked his colleagues for their support and well wishes and offered inspiring words about the future of journalism, despite the financial challenges of recent years.
“What has been clear to me over the past year … is that the various digital media tools are necessary and good to find new audiences and new revenue for our business to succeed. But those tools are meaningless without smart, creative and passionate people conceiving and producing the journalism that can be distributed through those multiple channels,” Kelley wrote.
“Likewise, another critical component is leadership that can communicate that connection between tools and talent. That’s where I need to do a better job in telling you that every day, every one of you — the reporters, photographers and editors who come up with story ideas and work the phones and sources for angles, the editors who catch a crucial error in copy or design a compelling page to draw in the reader, the many people now at work reorganizing and redesigning our websites — are the ones that give us a fighting chance as we try to navigate the rip current of change.”
“I survived a real rip current in 1997 off Avon in the Outer Banks. The thing of it is, after you stop panicking and let the current take you out to where the beach houses look tiny, then you have to have enough strength left to swim back to shore.”
“You all are the strength that will see us through.”
Written like a true Rugaber Award winner.