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Commentary: What Would Newby Do? The Best Job Possible

Speedonthewater.com founder Matt Trulio and I will often use the acronym WWND, mostly for humorous purposes in some random situation on the road or when things just aren’t going as planned. It stands for What Would Newby Do? And those words honestly are pretty good ones to live by because Tom Newby usually made advantageous decisions.

This September 11th tribute poster from Powerboat magazine featured an amazing Tom Newby image from an offshore race in New York.

But even when they weren’t the best or most-calculated choices, the late chief photographer of Powerboat magazine made them with confidence, which is something I learned to do from Newby, who died on this day 15 years ago in a helicopter accident while shooting for the magazine’s Performance Trials.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years since the fun-loving 50-year-old father of two sons and Mark Copeland, a 44-year-old television videographer from Raleigh, N.C., died in the accident. While today—September 11—will never be forgotten in the course of world history, the day also is one that Newby’s immediate family and powerboat-related family will always remember.

What would Newby do? Well, in this photo of the Powerboat magazine crew in 2007, he's position himself between two female staff members on the photo boat tower.

Almost harder for me to believe than the 15 years that have flown by is that I only worked with Newby at the magazine for a few years—Trulio worked with him for 12 years—and yet he made a significant impact on my career. First and foremost, Newby’s standards were high, which seemed to rub off on everyone who worked alongside him. (That’s Newby, top row center, in the picture with the Powerboat Test Team in Parker, Ariz.)

Thanks to Newby, I place a high standard on not just the photography, but the preparation and work that went into capturing a near-perfect image and how that photograph can help tell a story in magazine layout form. I tried as an editor of Powerboat, and I continue to do so to this day with every speedonthewater.com story I write, edit or design for our digital magazine, to produce the best possible content for the intended audience. That starts with preparation and ends with attention to detail, two things Newby took seriously.

Last Friday, while talking to Trulio about the 15th anniversary of the helicopter accident, he told me that because of Tom, he always wanted his stories to be worthy of Newby’s images. Trulio and I are fairly certain though that Newby always wanted his images to fit in perfectly with the storytelling of his Powerboat editors. That’s called a win-win, and for many years it was just that as the standards at Powerboat magazine were lofty.

That conversation dovetailed back to one I had the day before with our colleague with Newby at Powerboat, Bob Teague of Teague Custom Marine, another fellow who expects some very high standards of himself and the work of others.

Speedonthewater.com is featuring Teague in an upcoming episode of In The Lead presented by Mercury Racing so we were discussing plans for the shoot and what stories might be fun to share on camera. One of the stories he mentioned while talking about the international reach of Teague Custom Marine was when Trulio and Newby joined Teague and his offshore racing teammate at the time, Lizardo Benites, in 2002 for a trip to Peru to challenge an endurance record.

Trulio ended up winning a Boating Writers International award for the feature article that was so eloquently accompanied by Newby’s images. While the WWND acronym hadn’t become a running joke just yet, I’m pretty sure when Trulio was writing the story the thought might have popped into his mind: “What Would Newby Do?”

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