Robin Smith, retired Inquirer assistant sports editor, has died at 70


Robin Smith, 70, of Plymouth Meeting, retired assistant sports editor and copy editor at The Inquirer, and former reporter and night city editor at the Times Herald in Norristown, died Monday, Nov. 6, of complications from autoimmune disease at Meadowood retirement community in Worcester Township.

Ms. Smith worked nights for nearly her entire career at both The Inquirer and Times Herald, and colleagues joked often about whether she even knew what sunlight looked like. But no one ever questioned her work ethic, knowledge of the local sports scene, and ability to polish prose.

She joined The Inquirer in 1994 after 16 years with the Times Herald and spent the next 20 years on the sports copy desk and as assistant sports editor until her retirement in 2014. She wrote occasional Major League Baseball roundup columns from 2009 to 2011, contributed to many special section publications, and tirelessly championed girls’ and women’s sports.

She also advocated for women in the newsroom and mentored young reporters and editors. “I learned so much from her,” a former colleague said on Facebook. “She cared deeply about every story, and the readers benefited.”

Indeed, no one was more diligent in checking facts, more exacting in scrutinizing grammar, and more likely to send her stories to the next editor just seconds before deadline than Ms. Smith. “She was the most thorough editor I have ever worked with,” said former colleague Al Campbell. “And no one worked harder.”

Many nights, even after the final deadline had passed, Ms. Smith could be found at her desk, poring over stories and statistics to make sure she had not overlooked a mistake. And if she had, which was rare, her groan would echo around the room.

“She was an incredibly meticulous editor,” said former colleague Jim Swan. “If she read your story, you knew it was 100 percent perfect.”

Hired as a research librarian at the Times Herald in 1978, Ms. Smith worked later as a reporter covering high school sports and writing obituaries. She also served on the sports copy desk and as night city editor before leaving to join The Inquirer.

“Robin cared,” a former colleague said. “She took her job seriously but not herself.” Another former colleague said: “I was always happy to find out that Robin was working on one of my stories. When Robin suggested a change, we made the change.”

Robin Elizabeth Smith was born March 18, 1953, in Philadelphia. She lived with her parents in Plymouth Meeting and spent her adult life until recently in the house where she grew up.

She played field hockey and graduated from Germantown Academy in 1971, and earned a bachelor’s degree in English at Kenyon College in Ohio in 1975. She said she inherited her interest in sports and love of the Eagles from her father, Robert, and her favorite TV show, not surprisingly, was Jeopardy!

She traveled to Greece and France, went on safari in Africa, and skydived just once to see what it was like. She liked dogs and the scariest amusement park rides in Ocean City.

She had strong opinions but rarely spoke of her journalistic achievements, friends said. “She was the most modest woman I have ever met,” said longtime friend Wendy Weber. Her cousin, Sarah Heiser, said: “She was quiet and intelligent.”

When she left the Times Herald in 1994 and The Inquirer in 2014, colleagues presented her with mock newspaper pages that highlighted her dedication to their craft and their appreciation of her contributions.

“Robin loved sports, loved newspapering, loved the newsroom, and rooted for the good guys to win,” a longtime colleague said on Facebook. “She had the sports-editor-curmudgeon thing down to an art, and she loved a good joke. She made work fun.”

In addition to her cousin, Ms. Smith is survived by other relatives.

Services were held Thursday, Nov. 9.

Donations in her name may be made to Germantown Academy, 340 Morris Rd., Fort Washington, Pa. 19034; and St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, Whitemarsh, 7020 Camp Hill Rd., Fort Washington, Pa. 19034.

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