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Tribute to Bob Gabordi

Robert Charles Gabordi, former editor of the Asheville Citizen Times transitioned on Thursday, October 21, 2021. Bob was survived by his wife Donna, their children and grandchildren.

Bob came to Asheville in 2001 and led the newsroom for the next four years. He joined the Citizen Times during a period of time when morale was low and the newspaper was suffering due to large budget cuts directed from our corporate leaders.

As we searched for a new leader for the news team, corporate news executive Phil Currie identified Bob as a person who could get the newsroom going in the right direction.

I recall Bob and Donna coming to our home where we introduced ourselves and began the discussion of what needed to be done to right the news ship. Those who knew Bob knew that he had great passion about his work and the news team.

We knew he was the right person for the job when Bob put up a tent at his home in Arden and invited the entire news team to come for a meeting. I’m not sure what took place at that meeting, but I do know Bob made a connection with the staff, and we were off and running with our new editor.

Bob was a believer in hiring people who were good and many who were young but had potential. The list of his hires is extensive and someof them followed him to his other editor positions in Melbourne and Tallahassee, Florida.

Bob made a connection with the community with his candid and honest weekly column where he created a dialogue with readers, responding to questions and explaining coverage decisions. Bob was also engaged with technology and was the first editor at the Citizen Times to require adding email addresses to bylines so readers could contact reporters and columnist directly.

In addition, Bob was not only a great editor, he was a great leader. When things got tough, he stood before the newsroom and talked straight about any issue. He celebrated success, and he had no problem giving someone the business if they did not meet his high standards.

What I admired most about Bob were his values and his commitment to his faith, his loving family, his friends, his news team and the communities he served.

Bob loved children as he coached little league in Asheville, coaching a diverse group of kids after long hours at the newspaper. The man was committed!

He was a champion of hiring the best talent and giving people an opportunity, as evidenced by his hiring of current editor of the Citizen Times, Jewell Walston. Bob hired Jewell as the first woman as sports editor of the newspaper. She may have been the only Black female running a daily sports department in the nation at that time.

Bob was fearless. I recall a visit he and I paid to former Sheriff Bobby Medford, who threatened to jail our reporter Ton

ya Maxwell. Bob did not back down from the pressure of the sheriff and continued his investigation into corruption by Medford. He was feisty and operated without fear. You can read more about this encounter in Bob’s book and his commitment to journalism; The Truth: Real Stories and the Risk of Losing a Free Press in America.”

The work that was done during Bob’s four-year tenure is exceptional, as evidenced by the Citizen Times newsroom being awarded prestigious awards from the North Carolina Press Association and the parent company Gannett. The awards included Most Improved Newspaper, a first-place award for Public Service and a Gannett Gold Medal Award for journalism excellence, which represented being one of the top five newspapers in Gannett.

Bob was a man who made a difference, and he will be missed by his family, friends, and those of us who were blessed to work with him.

Joann and I send our love and prayer to his wife Donna and all of his children and grandchildren. Rest in Peace Bob!

Virgil L. Smith formerly served as president and publisher of the Asheville Citizen-Times and Vice President for Human Resources for the Gannett Company. He is the principal for the Smith Edwards Group and writes for Carolina Commentary.

This article originally appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times.

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