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Happy Trails to Ben Steelman!

Ben Stetelman, Wilmington StarNews

Happy trails to Ben Steelman, who is retiring from the Wilmington StarNews after more than forty years. His last day is Friday, July 5.

Steelman is the book columnist and longtime staff reporter. He started at the paper in 1977.

There’s almost nothing we can say that isn’t said better in this inspiring profile by Scott Nunn.

Known as a fine—and fast—writer, Steelman started at the StarNews on the night copy desk. Always working on deadline, copy editors have an appreciation for reporters who can quickly turn around a story. Few have been as fast as Steelman, and none could write so fast so well. He is so well-read in so many areas that he could easily add important details and context to a story without having to look them up, a task that was not so easy in pre-internet days.

One of Steelman’s greatest achievements is the WHQR Prologue series, in which Steelman interviewed North Carolina authors  (and plenty of others) about their new books. Also, he was always eager to give ink to NCWN conferences and events, and to talk with faculty members of ours, so that the greater Wilmington community stayed up-to-date on all the literary goings on.

“He is part of that vanishing breed, the journalist-intellectual,” says author Philip Gerard, “who brings both reason and a reliable moral compass to his work and makes the community better by his presence and his words.”

Steelman wrote a column in 2017 marking his fortieth anniversary at the paper.

Forty years … it doesn’t seem that long. I didn’t really plan on hanging on; by now, I expected, I’d have moved on to a big paper or a New York magazine, or to a cabin in Vermont where I’d be writing my next bestseller.

But none of that happened, so here I am. I hate writing resumes and filling in job applications. Also, I was getting paid to live near the beach, in a pretty old town.

Plus, working at the StarNews turned out to be a lot of fun—and it still is.

Sounds like he’ll be keeping a desk at the newspaper and still write from time to time for StarNews Media, so he’ll still be around. However, we wanted to offer this public thanks—few have championed the literary arts in North Carolina longer and or with more enthusiasm than Ben Steelman.

We are forever grateful.