The Starlite Drive-In Theater’s neon marquee sits alongside Highway 22 in Litchfield, Minn. on June 29, 2018.
As editor of NewsCut for about seven years, I’ve read many NewsCuts. Some were brilliant. A few had the feel of a get-me-over fastball on a 3-0 count: kind of a grace-under-pressure circumstance.
But the thing is, you couldn’t scroll past Bob Collins.
He came in every day and made stuff that people wanted – really wanted – to read. That’s the best compliment anyone could ever get as a writer and reporter.
He has one more post scheduled for later this afternoon. You’re gonna want to read it.
Before then, here are some of the stories I remember best. If you have a favorite, please add it in the comment section or tweet about it with the #bestofnewscut hashtag.
- “Minnesota’s drive-in movie era fades, but some won’t let it die.” NewsCut was always at his best when he sprung himself from NewsCut World Headquarters to do some reporting. This was a lovely read on a family keeping a drive-in movie theater going when the entire modern world says drive-in theaters should no longer exist.
- “Give the kid the ball.” There is a series in NewsCut where Collins appropriately kicks adults in the shins for trying to steal that bit of gold — a baseball — from a kid. A few also double as meditations on life. This one is the best.
- “Battle for Riverview Circle.” This is some of the best flood reporting you’ll ever find. He found a street in Moorhead in 2009 to tell the real stories of a flood’s damage and the resilience of people who refuse to be damaged.
- Wrenshall Wrens. Maybe his single favorite post. “The girls of Wrenshall High School have a right to be dispirited. Amazingly, they’re not.” He wrote several posts on the Wrens that came down to a single sentence: “Be like the women of Wrenshall.”
- “Last Men of Luverne.” Not sure how he found these guys and their story. But once he did, he was all in. He had to tell their stories, had to make sure they were not forgotten.
There are more, but you see the themes. Resilience. Perseverance. Keep going. Find a way forward. Remember the past.
Those are his heroes. He made them ours.
Here are a couple that appear ordinary until you read them.
Grace through the hospital doors doesn’t seem like much on its surface. But then he writes:
The chances are pretty good that just down the street from you right now, there is incredible drama taking place, none of which we can tell you about on the news. Joy, tragedy, people going above and beyond to help someone they may not have known a day or two ago, and grace — so much grace.
In the absence of these stories, we can often succumb to the perception that life is just as awful as the steady drumbeat of tweets and posts tells us it is.
Yes, you will read the rest of that.
Then there’s this one: On birthday, soldier surprises dad at the ballpark. You’ve read this one a million times, right? You’ve probably seen these live at the ballpark.
So, I’m reading it (I’m his editor, after all), and I get to this:
What happened next was that moment when your heart is sort of broken, and then it’s not. That moment when your kid shows up.
Man, I just went someplace and cried for a few minutes.
He came in every day and made these things for you, for us.