Raleigh, N.C. — The state Senate on Thursday honored former WRAL News reporter Mark Binker, paying respect to the veteran journalist by calling him "tough but fair" and saying he had become an indelible part of the General Assembly.
Nine senators shared their memories of working with Binker before the chamber voted 43-0 in favor of Senate Resolution 680.
"He represents the best what the American idea of the free press is all about," said Sen. Dan Blue, D-Wake. "He didn't shy away from tough questions – some of us were on different programs with it, and you squirm a little bit – but again, that's what the First Amendment is all about, and that's what holding us accountable is all about."
Blue urged lawmakers to follow "the Binker standard," which he said was meeting the level of accuracy, transparency and accountability that he demanded.
Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Franklin, recalled how Binker was often the only reporter to attend Republican news conferences in 2009 – Democrats controlled the legislature at the time – so he could better understand their positions on issues.
"In a world of sound bites, click bait and sensationalism, Mark wanted to explain things. He was a wonk," Barefoot said. "He treated every issue with the same level of curiosity."
But during all of the "deep dives" into politics and issues, Binker never lost sight of the people he was covering, Barefoot said.
"He was always a true professional," he said. "You could be yourself around Mark."
Binker's death leaves a gaping hole in the Capitol Press Corps, said Sen. Tamara Barringer, R-Wake.
"I trusted him to be fair with the toughest of issues," Barringer said. "When I heard the news that we had lost him so soon and so early, I asked myself who would fill that void of trust, and I certainly hope that the journalistic community will step up and do so."
Binker was as devoted to his family as he was to his profession, and several senators thanked the family for sharing him.
Sen. Don Davis, D-Pitt, recalled swapping emails with Binker late on a Sunday night a few days before his death, .
"I share the final words he shared with me. It says, 'Thanks very much,'" Davis said. "To his family, on behalf of all of us in this great state, I share his words, 'Thanks very much.'"
Sen. Andrew Brock, R-Davie, noted that Binker worked to lose weight and improve his health a few years ago so he could keep up with his sons, Mason and Max.
"Boys, he loved you so much, and he talked about you and cared for you," Brock said. "Now, he's always there. You can always talk to him, and he's always watching. And he's always will be proud of you."
Sen. Tommy Tucker, R-Union, choked back tears as he spoke directly to Binker's wife, Marla, and the two boys in the Senate gallery.
"I lost my dad at 40, too, 50 years ago, and boys, it makes you grow up fast, but you've got to take care of your momma," Tucker said. "The one treasure I do take away from this job is the people I have the opportunity to meet, and to the family, Mark was one of those people."