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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
P. O. Box 3711
204 Broad Street
Martinsville, Virginia 24115
Toll Free: 800-234-6575

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Bulletin Publisher Robert Haskell dies
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Robert H. Haskell

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Martinsville Bulletin Publisher Robert H. Haskell III died Friday at Memorial Hospital in Martinsville.

Haskell, 73, of Martinsville, had been publisher of the Bulletin since 1989, the year the newspaper marked its 100th anniversary.

Each day under his leadership, the newspaper reaffirmed its commitment to covering local news, sports and people.

“My good friend Robert Haskell was the best newspaper man I have ever known. His sense of fairness, his curiosity, his pursuit of the story and his commitment to coverage of local news is why the Martinsville Bulletin has loyal readers and one of the highest market penetrations of daily newspapers in Virginia,” said George Harris, general manager of the Bulletin.

“He will be greatly missed, but the Bulletin will strive to continue the same journalistic integrity and commitment to its readers that he has exemplified for more than 40 years,” Harris added.

Bulletin Editor Ginny Wray said Haskell set a standard of excellence for the newspaper.

“Mr. Haskell was dedicated to the idea that local people turned to the Martinsville Bulletin for local news,” she said. “While the Bulletin has The Associated Press for coverage of news of the state, nation and world, this newspaper places a priority on reporting what is happening in the neighborhoods, schools, governments and other areas of daily life in Henry County, Martinsville and Patrick County.”

Under Haskell’s leadership, the Bulletin changed with the times, moving from hot metal production into offset printing, the computer and digital age and, more recently, the Internet. The print edition was redesigned several times, and the newspaper’s website now attracts thousands of readers each day. The Bulletin also switched from an afternoon newspaper to a morning paper on Aug. 1, 2000.

“Everything was done with the goal of providing better service to the local community and better coverage of its local news,” Wray said.

As a rule, the Bulletin tries not to be part of a news story it is reporting. But one exception to that was in 1996 when, under Haskell’s leadership, the newspaper and an anonymous donor stepped forward to resolve a festering controversy over the former R.P. Thomas Trucking Terminal.

The terminal — already unpopular because neighbors felt betrayed by its construction in a residential area decades earlier — became a source of outrage when the neighbors found the property was being used as a way station for trucks carrying hazardous materials. The controversy continued for about five years until the Bulletin and the donor contributed funds for the city to buy the site at an auction, with the stipulation that the terminal be razed and the land be redeveloped to the satisfaction of neighbors.

Today, the property is home to the Academy Place residential neighborhood.

“I believe that kind of concern for the community — whether it was in covering a story or resolving a seemingly unresolveable problem —will be Mr. Haskell’s legacy at the Bulletin,” Wray added.

Haskell was born into the newspaper business. His grandfather was Charles Edward Marsh, a Texas oil and newspaper man who was editor and publisher of the Austin (Texas) American Statesman and other newspapers.

His parents were Antoinette Haskell, who was an officer of the Bulletin before her death in 2009, and Robert J. Haskell Jr.

Haskell’s parents moved to Martinsville in 1947 where his father was publisher of the Martinsville Bulletin. His father eventually bought the newspaper and ran it until he died in 1971. He was succeeded as publisher by William R. Martin Sr., who served in that post until he retired in 1989 and Robert Haskell III, then executive vice president of the newspaper, took over.

Haskell had received a bachelor’s degree from the School of Journalism at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. He was in the news business for 27 years and worked as a reporter for several Washington, D.C. area publications before he joined the Bulletin on July 20, 1970.

In addition to his work at the Bulletin, Haskell served on the board of the Public Welfare Foundation in Washington, D.C., an organization founded in 1947 by Marsh, according to the book, “Anonymous Giver, A Life of Charles E. Marsh.” The foundation was created to ensure that people in need receive fundamental rights and opportunities, its web site states.

Haskell served as chairman of the foundation’s Finance Committee, and he was universally credited by board members for his management of its investments, according to the book, “Seeking the Greatest Good.”

The Henry County-Martinsville area benefited from the foundation. Among local organizations receiving funds through the years are the New College Institute, Citizens Against Family Violence, SPCA of Martinsville and Henry County and the Blue Ridge Regional Library.

Haskell was preceded in death by his parents and his brother, Charles T. Haskell.

Surviving are his wife, Elizabeth Haskell; a son, Andrew Haskell of Morristown, N.J.; three grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.


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