Meet Andrew Sharp

Andrew Sharp is a journalist living in Delaware. He previously launched Delaware Independent, an online local source for news. It ultimately closed in 2022. Since then, he has written for numerous publications and is involved with the Delaware Journalism Collaborative, a partnership of local news and community organizations working together to examine the issue of polarization, why it matters, and what can be done. Learn more:

Interview With Andrew Sharp

Q: How long have you been a reporter / in the news industry?

Andrew: I was in journalism for almost a decade, finishing up with an attempt to start a news site in southern Delaware in 2021. That went fine except for the making a living part, and I’m now working as a freelance writer. I do write some news stories for magazines still, but don’t really consider myself a reporter anymore although I have a special place in my heart for the industry and it’s hard to believe I’m not in it anymore.

Q: Where did you start? What was your first job and what are your memories of the work you did?

Andrew: My first newspaper work post-college was as a freelance reporter for the Columbus Messenger papers in Ohio, one of those small independent publications that comes in the mail rolled up with a lot of ads and left on your porch whether you want it or not. They paid me $35 an article, and $50 if it had a photo with it, which made it more a very time-consuming hobby than a livelihood. But I got the chance to cover Columbus City Council a couple of times and talk to a lot of interesting people.

My first full-time news job was with the Star Democrat in Easton, Maryland. I was a sort of utility player, ostensibly a copy editor but also a reporter, photographer, whatever was needed. I covered the towns of Preston and Hurlock regularly, and eventually became the night editor, responsible for shepherding the next day’s print edition off to the presses. I remember driving away from my first reporting assignment, a Cambridge city council meeting, wondering what in the world I was going to write about to make an interesting story and feeling sure I had not taken good enough notes to make an article. I wrote up something about how they were considering banning bamboo. I think the story made the front page, which maybe tells you more about the lack of news that day than my sparkling writing.

Q: Where are you currently working? If freelancing, feel free to give a list of where people can find your articles!

Andrew: I’ve always wanted to try magazine writing, and have dabbled in it on the side for years. So that’s part of what I’ve been doing since closing the Delaware Independent. I write for Delaware Beach Life and Delaware Today, and have done some for university magazines in Ohio including my alma mater, Ohio State. Freelance is about the hustle so I stay quite busy. I also write for the University of Delaware and Blue Blaze Associates, a communications agency in northern Delaware. The topic range ends up being extremely broad, which is kind of nice – part of the fun of being a writer, and what was fun about the news industry, was constantly learning about new topics and meeting interesting people.

Q: What are some inspiring/funny/embarrassing stories from your time as a journalist?

Andrew: I once set out for a town council meeting in Preston and decided to take an alternate route. In the Easton area, a trip of any distance tends to involve navigating around waterways, and I decided that instead of taking the usual route over the old Dover drawbridge, I’d drive back toward Denton and just take one of the side routes south. I’m not sure what I was thinking – maybe wanting to see some new country – but had I consulted a map first or my phone I would have realized what any native could have told me, which is that I would have needed a boat to get over the Choptank River anywhere but the usual route, which is of course why it was the usual route. Whatever the Preston town council was talking about that night remained a mystery to the Star Democrat readers, because I wasn’t there.

One of the things I loved about being in a newsroom was the dark humor, which was a way of coping with being in what could be a very depressing business – covering really horrible, painful stories and being hated by a lot of readers. But even if I could remember the stuff we laughed about I probably couldn’t share it here without getting in trouble, that being the nature of dark humor.

A copy editor’s greatest fear is to look at the paper the next day and see some truly horrible gaffe like “headline goes here” or something else that will end up going quickly around the internet. That never happened to me although I made my share of mistakes. I misspelled Barack Obama once. Spelling the president’s name correctly is too basic to even call copy editing 101.

There were some really moving moments too. I used to write a regular opinion column – you could do that as a reporter at a small paper. Or at least, I got away with it. Once at the Daily Times in Salisbury I criticized a local “entertainment” venue for using a term that some people consider a slur to refer to little people. I’m sure you can guess the kind of event I’m referring to. You never know what to expect when you write a column like this, except that someone’s probably going to get big mad, but I got the most touching message from the mother of a little person thanking me for the column. That kind of support really means a lot when you’re not sure how a column will be received, and when you work in an industry where it’s usually the angry people who feel motivated to write. I guess I’d say if you like the work a reporter is doing for your local paper, write and tell them so, they probably need to hear it.

Q: What was your favorite story to cover – or a big event or a breaking story you are most proud of?

Andrew: I don’t know what I would pick as my favorite. Once when I was at the News Journal, a bear showed up in Wilmington and we went full paparazzi on it. In some ways it was like the worst of modern news, where something starts making the rounds on social media and you get packs of reporters panting around and a news helicopter overhead. Quite a few people probably thought we should just calm the heck down. But it was really the most interesting thing in happening in Wilmington that day. People were extremely into it, like they’d never been to the Washington Zoo and seen a bear. Was it over the top? Yes. Was it an entertaining story? Also yes. I was on the copy desk at that point coming up with funny headlines, so maybe I was enjoying it more than the average reporter who had to rush around asking Joe Smith if he had been surprised to see the bear go by the coffee shop window.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time? Talk about your family, hobbies, etc.

Andrew: My favorite thing is sitting in front of the fire with a book. I also like crossword puzzles and jigsaw puzzles, so basically, I’m just looking forward to the retirement home where I can do that stuff all the time.

My wife and I have two boys ages 10 and 9 who are Minecraft obsessed. I started playing it with them and discovered it’s a lot of fun. Like a digital Lego world. It’s a little embarrassing how much I play that. Don’t tell anyone.

I really like the outdoors. I don’t get out as much as I used to, too busy playing Minecraft, but I like hunting and hiking and camping. Get me somewhere there are a lot of trees and the internet is terrible.

Q: What do you think about the state of journalism? What are your hopes and fears for the future of this profession?

Andrew: The news industry is slowly being strangled by Google and Facebook and the new internet publishing system. I’m not sure if people realize just how devastating the cuts have been in newspaper offices. Journalists realize this but have been slow to admit just how much peril the industry is in. It’s not in danger of dying, it is actively dying. Journalists hype how important their work is and how much it means to democracy (a lot of which I think is true, although it gets tiring to hear anyone talk about how important they are). But importance to democracy doesn’t generate revenue. Ads do and the internet model leaves news out in the cold.

As a digital producer trying to get as many clicks as possible for stories I was on the front lines of trying to make news relevant for a different generation. And it’s just not working. Even the new wave of digital publications like Buzzfeed that had supposedly unlocked the secret are now seeing layoffs and revenue issues. You can get a million clicks and still go broke.

I hope to see journalism survive. I don’t think people realize how much they’d miss it, the corruption that could take hold in communities with no accountability.

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