Saturday, May 7, 2011

Brian Hamlin, longtime Vacaville journalist, dies

Brian Hamlin, a longtime reporter and columnist at The Reporter in Vacaville, died Friday following a battle against cancer at age 61. From his obit in The Reporter:
    Mr. Hamlin excelled at his beat with a work attitude that was both jovial and serious at the same time, former and current editors said. It didn't take long for him to become a guru of sorts to others in the newsroom. He set the example for accuracy and dedication, always willing to offer advice to younger writers and more than willing to share his vast wealth of knowledge on past events in what he lovingly referred to as "S'lano County." …
Brian Hamlin (2009 photo by
Ryan Chalk, The Reporter)
A "patriarch" of the paper is how former Reporter publisher Richard Rico described Mr. Hamlin on Friday. 
    "Brian was, most of all, a journalist. Capital J. As a columnist, he had a rapier wit. As a communicator he was profoundly sensitive, thorough and fair. As a character, he had no equal, nor will he ever," he said. "As his publisher and friend, I shall always value the standard he set for the newsroom, old and newbie alike. Like all great mentors, he set the tone that everyone around him heard and followed." … 
    The impact of his personality on The Reporter is still visible in the many rubber rats he purchased and gave to staffers throughout the years. In fact, many who learned of his death Friday recalled the "weird" and funny gifts he "just had to buy" for them. 
    One Hamlin gesture that Reporter staff past and present will always recall is the tradition he launched of giving a departing employee a wristwatch and a parting speech that usually consisted of a lot of "harrumphs" and "ahems." 
    The gesture, he would explain, was based on the Broadway play and movie "The Front Page," which told the story of a hardworking newspaper reporter and his devious editor. At the end, the reporter boards a train to leave for a better job and his editor gives him his wristwatch. 
    As the train pulls away, the editor calls ahead to the next station, asking officials there to arrest the reporter because he "just stole my watch!" From Mr. Hamlin's perspective, giving a watch to a departing staffer was a way of saying they would be missed and welcomed back any time. 
    He was presented with a wristwatch of his own by staff and loved ones in January. He was a standard bearer for the journalism craft and a kind and generous friend to all who knew him.

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