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Opinion: David Starr Was a Do-gooder Who Did Much More

David Starr, the long-time publisher and then president of the Republican, died this week at age 96.

He will long be remembered for his many accomplishments and innovations in journalism — and in the revitalization of Springfield, the city he came to in the late ’70s, at a time when it was already in deep decline.

His passing helps serve as a poignant reminder of the power and importance of the press at a time when the industry is struggling and some worry about its very survival.

Indeed, Starr, while leading efforts to revitalize Springfield through the arts and culture, made the media, and specifically the Republican, a partner in those efforts.

Some criticized him for crossing over some imaginary line between reporting news and participating in the news, but Springfield, and this region as a whole, should be very glad he did cross it.

“Urban revitalization hinges on a true working partnership among elected officials (mayor, city councilors), private business people … and the media,” Starr wrote in a letter to S.I. Newhouse Sr., owner of the chain of newspapers to which the Republican belonged. “Newspapers have the power to nurture or destroy this kind of effort. If a paper can be persuaded to help, then the prospect of success is enormously brighter.

“Many editors are uncomfortable with the thought of participation,” he continued in the same letter. “They do not want to be — and they certainly should not be — mere promoters. But it’s my thesis that once an editor has examined the problem and decided that the proposed solution is a good one, then he does not lose his editorial prerogative by joining the effort.”

Starr wasn’t a promoter, but he certainly joined the effort. And not only did he join it — in many cases he led it; he was one of the founders of Springfield Business Friends of the Arts, and also the Community Foundation of Western Mass. and the Economic Development Council of Western Mass., and active with a number of organizations related to the arts.

He was a do-gooder, but he did a lot more than that. He inspired others to also join the effort, and by the time of his death, he could rightly be proud of the many ways in which Springfield has changed for the better.

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