Opinion

Eric Horsting stepping down after run as arts editor, sports editor, reporter...

lasting impressions

Last August, after a brief vacation, I returned to The Beachcomber with a gift for Eric Horsting, who had steered the ship in my absence. It was a smooth, pale-gray rock with a poem on it, and it seemed the perfect token for this man who loves poetry and is rock solid and dependable.

It wasn’t the only metaphor that came to mind when we thought about Eric at The Beachcomber. I remember nights when some of us would affectionately refer to him as the Ever-Ready Bunny. On our longest days at the paper, he’d chug along, steady and dependable and seemingly indefatigable.

But no one is truly indefatigable. And Eric Horsting, arts editor, sports editor, education reporter and stand-in editor, who has served The Beachcomber with his solid work ethic for more than eight years, has decided to step down.

As he told us in an e-mail, he’s had a good ride at the paper.

A former professor of literature and creative writing, Eric walked into The Beachcomber’s small, storefront office in 2000, nine months after he and his wife Sharon Shaver landed on Vashon in search of a community reminiscent of Yellow Springs, Ohio (“the Berkeley of the Midwest,” as Eric put it), where he had taught for many years. He was soon hired as the paper’s arts editor and part-time reporter, and thus began an Island-based career that gave him a close-up view of nearly every significant Vashon controversy.

As the education reporter, he covered the mold issue that came up first at Vashon High School and a few years later at Chautauqua Elementary School. Vashon Island Fire & Rescue was also one of his beats, and he was soon writing about the drama plaguing that department, a saga that eventually cost Jim Wilson, the fire chief at the time, his job.

He wrote about the proposed public utility district, about candidates for the school board and the park district board, about ferry woes and property taxes.

All the while, he was putting out an arts page that week after week paid tribute to Vashon’s remarkable reservoir of artistic talent. And over time, he became known in the community for his always thoughtful and often charitable reviews of the Island’s drama productions.

When Rik Forschmiedt retired nearly two years ago, Eric added “sports editor” to his title, drawing upon his experience decades earlier as a basketball and baseball player to edit the entries faithfully submitted by parents and coaches.

Eric has a doctorate in renaissance literature from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in English from Middlebury in Vermont. And with that remarkable education — one that included plenty of Latin — came a knowledge of language and grammar that impressed all of us at The Beachcomber.

Questions about language come up not infrequently when putting out a paper, and Eric could be counted on to correct our misspellings, determine the right verb tense or straighten out a mangled sentence.

He shined particularly bright at the last two spelling bees, put on by the Vashon Community Scholarship Foundation. While we went out before the final round last year, we did so only because Eric misspoke while spelling a word and tried to start over (not allowed at most spelling bees). The fact is, Eric not only knew how to spell Pentateuchal; he also knew what it meant. Earlier this year, it was even more spectacular; in the final minutes of the event, we went at it with the Vashon Allied Arts team, round after round, like a soccer match in overtime, until we finally made a misstep. And again, it was Eric who carried our team.

It’s not easy being a journalist in a small community. There’s no place to hide, no big-city culture to provide a cloak of anonymity. For nearly a decade, Eric has navigated Vashon’s intense political scene, writing stories about some of the community’s toughest issues with a calm and affectionate detachment.

He edited what others submitted as gently as he could, so as to preserve the varied and sometimes quirky voices that have made the paper lively, interesting and uniquely Vashon. He walked away from stories that he thought would only be hurtful. And he maintained a strong sense of integrity throughout his years as a reporter here.

That rock that I gave him last summer carried these words: “Shaped by waves, transformed to calm. Hold the energy within your palm.” That, too, captured Eric’s essence, I thought at the time: Calm energy.

In the rapid-fire pace that is The Beachcomber, we’ll miss his calm presence. But we hope we won’t entirely miss his voice. Eric just might continue to write for The Beachcomber from time to time, offering up his insights into drama, his love of the arts and his fascination with this colorful Island of ours.

— Leslie Brown is the editor of The Beachcomber.

Last August, after a brief vacation, I returned to The Beachcomber with a gift for Eric Horsting, who had steered the ship in my absence. It was a smooth, pale-gray rock with a poem on it, and it seemed the perfect token for this man who loves poetry and is rock solid and dependable.

It wasn’t the only metaphor that came to mind when we thought about Eric at The Beachcomber. I remember nights when some of us would affectionately refer to him as the Ever-Ready Bunny. On our longest days at the paper, he’d chug along, steady and dependable and seemingly indefatigable.

But no one is truly indefatigable. And Eric Horsting, arts editor, sports editor, education reporter and stand-in editor, who has served The Beachcomber with his solid work ethic for more than eight years, has decided to step down.

As he told us in an e-mail, he’s had a good ride at the paper.

A former professor of literature and creative writing, Eric walked into The Beachcomber’s small, storefront office in 2000, nine months after he and his wife Sharon Shaver landed on Vashon in search of a community reminiscent of Yellow Springs, Ohio (“the Berkeley of the Midwest,” as Eric put it), where he had taught for many years. He was soon hired as the paper’s arts editor and part-time reporter, and thus began an Island-based career that gave him a close-up view of nearly every significant Vashon controversy.

As the education reporter, he covered the mold issue that came up first at Vashon High School and a few years later at Chautauqua Elementary School. Vashon Island Fire & Rescue was also one of his beats, and he was soon writing about the drama plaguing that department, a saga that eventually cost Jim Wilson, the fire chief at the time, his job.

He wrote about the proposed public utility district, about candidates for the school board and the park district board, about ferry woes and property taxes.

All the while, he was putting out an arts page that week after week paid tribute to Vashon’s remarkable reservoir of artistic talent. And over time, he became known in the community for his always thoughtful and often charitable reviews of the Island’s drama productions.

When Rik Forschmiedt retired nearly two years ago, Eric added “sports editor” to his title, drawing upon his experience decades earlier as a basketball and baseball player to edit the entries faithfully submitted by parents and coaches.

Eric has a doctorate in renaissance literature from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in English from Middlebury in Vermont. And with that remarkable education — one that included plenty of Latin — came a knowledge of language and grammar that impressed all of us at The Beachcomber.

Questions about language come up not infrequently when putting out a paper, and Eric could be counted on to correct our misspellings, determine the right verb tense or straighten out a mangled sentence.

He shined particularly bright at the last two spelling bees, put on by the Vashon Community Scholarship Foundation. While we went out before the final round last year, we did so only because Eric misspoke while spelling a word and tried to start over (not allowed at most spelling bees). The fact is, Eric not only knew how to spell Pentateuchal; he also knew what it meant. Earlier this year, it was even more spectacular; in the final minutes of the event, we went at it with the Vashon Allied Arts team, round after round, like a soccer match in overtime, until we finally made a misstep. And again, it was Eric who carried our team.

It’s not easy being a journalist in a small community. There’s no place to hide, no big-city culture to provide a cloak of anonymity. For nearly a decade, Eric has navigated Vashon’s intense political scene, writing stories about some of the community’s toughest issues with a calm and affectionate detachment.

He edited what others submitted as gently as he could, so as to preserve the varied and sometimes quirky voices that have made the paper lively, interesting and uniquely Vashon. He walked away from stories that he thought would only be hurtful. And he maintained a strong sense of integrity throughout his years as a reporter here.

That rock that I gave him last summer carried these words: “Shaped by waves, transformed to calm. Hold the energy within your palm.” That, too, captured Eric’s essence, I thought at the time: Calm energy.

In the rapid-fire pace that is The Beachcomber, we’ll miss his calm presence. But we hope we won’t entirely miss his voice. Eric just might continue to write for The Beachcomber from time to time, offering up his insights into drama, his love of the arts and his fascination with this colorful Island of ours.

Leslie Brown is the editor of The Beachcomber.

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