Greg Bassett: There’s only one ‘Best’ — It’s Brice Stump

Brice Stump, a reporter at The Daily Times from 1979 until his retirment this year, has a story on the discovery of a historic ship in this week's Salisbury Independent.

Brice Stump, a reporter at The Daily Times from 1979 until his retirement this year, has a story on the discovery of a historic ship in this week’s Salisbury Independent.

This isn’t bragging, it’s confessing a curse of compulsion: I’ve read pretty much every word published in every newspaper of significance on the Lower Shore since I was about 8 years old.

I know the writing styles, narrative talents and photographic abilities of just about every poor soul who deemed it their plight to sit in front of a typewriter or look through a camera lens and tell the news of our communities.

By a wide margin, the work of three men stands above all the others: Dick Moore, Orlando Wootten and Brice Neal Stump.

Moore was the reporter/photographer/editor I aspired to become. He wasn’t especially talented, but he was exceptionally able. His work was always clean, simple and wholly accurate. He managed to bring an air of empathy to his reporting and could get people to talk.

Wootten was already a skilled photographer when he arrived in Salisbury. His photographs are among the greatest ever taken here. Even his most basic photos are utterly compelling; he captured the Eastern Shore lifestyle of the 1960s, but his newspaper tenure was relatively brief. Wootten, to me, always seemed to write stories that could be used to go around his photographs ─ his writing was technically solid but the words fell short of the visual.

Which brings us to Brice Stump.

Beginning my stringer work at The Daily Times in 1979, I happened to arrive on Stump’s third day of employment. Hired as the photographer, the young Dorchester County man had a high-pressure job, chief among them to provide a feature photo for Page 1. That photo had to both hold a reader’s attention and trigger some newsstand purchases.

Even under such pressure, Stump produced photos that iconically captured the community and gave the newspaper an all-important sense of place. In later years, Stump added writing to his workload, and it turned out he had some skills there too.

Some people have compared Stump to the Baltimore Sunpapers’ legendary photographer Aubrey Bodine. I agree. But great photographers aren’t really that rare. A great photographer and great writer in a single person: exceptionally rare.

You may have noticed that Stump has the Page 1 package in this week’s Salisbury Independent. For us, that’s a big deal ─ a comparison might be Jim Palmer pitching for the Shorebirds.

Stump’s writing abilities are dictated in how he approaches his subjects. He cares about the people he covers. Unlike Bodine, people aren’t just elements in a photo; unlike Wootten, people aren’t just props to build a story around.

To see and hear Brice Stump photograph and interview a person is to see a journalist at the top of his craft ─ one executing that craft with sincere curiosity, awareness and a true sense of caring. Usually, an encounter with a reporter is like a trip to the dentist; to undergo the Stump Treatment is like a visit to a fine masseuse.

He has continually written what I always called “The Stories Of Us” ─ he helps to define who we are and extracts what makes us, and this place we live, special. Stump isn’t just a history lesson provider or an extoller of “remember when.” This is a reporter, a chronicler who sees what has happened, explores its impact, and communicates all that.

Having retired from The Daily Times earlier this year, Stump owes it to himself to display his talents on whichever platform best suits. This week, Salisbury Independent is that platform. But just as Mark Twain moved his writings among Harper’s, the American Century and Atlantic Monthly, I’m sure you’ll see his work other places. You, the Salisbury Independent readers, are an audience that Stump has long served.

I couldn’t be happier to have this writing and photographing legend appear on our pages.

Usually, I don’t get to write too many nice things about people until they die. Brice Stump is the best, and I’m so honored that Salisbury Independent can be a vehicle for readers to see his work yet again.

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