CT Journalism Hall of Fame: Robert Estabrook

Robert Estabrook has lived several journalism lives.  He is best known in Connecticut as the publisher and editor of the Lakeville Journal.  He owned the newspaper for 16 years.  During that time the Journal covered a number of high profile stories including the 1973 Peter Reilly murder trial.  Because of the newspaper’s in-depth coverage, all charges were dropped against the 18-year old who had been accused of killing his mother.  For those stories and editorials the paper won the national John Peter Zenger Award for Freedom of the Press. He also has been active in Freedom of Information issues.  But his career extended beyond the boundaries of Connecticut.  He was a writer for northern Michigan weeklies and managing editor of the campus newspaper at Northwestern University, from which he graduated summa cum laude in 1939.  He worked as an editorial writer in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  He served four years in the Army during World War II and started a U.S. forces newspaper in Brazil.  After the war the Washington Post hired him as an editorial writer.  He spent 25 years with that storied organization including nine years as a foreign correspondent traveling to 70 countries.  He has been a Pulitzer Prize judge and with other New England editors, conducted journalism workshops in India.

Mitchell Pearlman, former director of the CT. Freedom of Information Commission said,

“Bob’s autobiography is entitled “Never Dull.”  When it comes to leadership for journalism’s sacred causes, his biography can aptly be called  “Always There.”  There are many who say they believe in the virtues of a free press and an open and accountable government, but too precious few who step forward time and again to vigorously preserve, protect and defend freedom of the press and freedom of information, both of which are so essential to democracy.  Bob Estabrook has been, and is, one of them.

People throughout the United States, and indeed the world, have benefited by his indefatigable leadership in journalism.  But we in Connecticut have benefited the most, and the most directly, when he and his wife, Mary Lou, decided to move to  Connecticut and buy the Lakeville Journal.  They not only

made that paper a great weekly newspaper, they became the paradigm for community-based, civic-minded journalism, while ever mindful that their local community is part of a broader statewide, national and international community about which every reader should be well-informed.  I’ve had the honor and privilege of knowing and working with Bob for over 35 years.  Thus I can say that without doubt, no one during this period has done more for good journalism and good government in Connecticut than Bob Estabrook.  He is indeed a hero and much deserving of this recognition.”

Mr. Estabrook died in November 2011. He was 93.

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