Neighbors make the best news


This wasn’t what I imagined I’d be doing right now. I had books to read, wine to sip, grandchildren to spoil.

The last is what brought me out of retirement and to Richmond County a little more than a year ago — being closer to my two grandchildren. And so, I became what I told my friends was a “cub reporter.”

And now, Champion Media has asked me to step into the role of editor of the Richmond Daily Journal, after the departure of Will Toler. I accepted because I love the daily grind and excitement of newspapering.

If you’re looking at the mugshot that accompanies this column, you already can tell I’m not a spring chicken. I’ve been in the business since January 1974, since I began as what is called a “rim rat” on the City Desk of TODAY in Cocoa, Florida, the first newspaper in America established around a computerized editing system — which, incidentally, crashed like clockwork during every afternoon rain.

My career has taken me to large newspapers — the Tampa (Florida) Tribune, the Wichita (Kansas) Eagle and The State in Columbia, South Carolina — and small, like the Daily Journal. I have split my time between editing and reporting, and sometimes combined the two, as at my last position: with the Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Leader.

When I look back, I realize that the most interesting stories I have written have been in smaller towns and counties:

  • I watched the people of Larned, Kansas, care for a newborn infant dumped into a local lake, buying a casket and burying the child with respect. Although a horrid thing had brought them together, their spirit of community shone brightly.
  • In St. Marys, Kansas, I wrote about a family who were convinced their second son was the legitimately elected pope. They were sure their laymen’s knowledge of canon law proved them right because they and a handful of followers had voted and burned their ballots in the backyard barbecue. You may laugh — as some in the town did — but most people treated the family with respect.
  • And in Saluda County, South Carolina, I watched for days as engineers and rescue crews attempted to recover the body of a young woman who had slipped on some rocks and been carried away by deceptively strong current in the rapids between Georgia and South Carolina, until her foot snagged on a rock. Again, here were people willing to risk their lives to help others.

Maybe the “biggest” stories happen in big towns, but the best ones happen on a smaller scale. They give us a look into the lives of our neighbors, painting a picture of what each of us goes through daily, as well as how we rise to the occasional challenge or, sometimes, fall.

And that is what we hope to continue to do at the Richmond Daily Journal. It’s the same thing Will emphasized when he was here.

Our neighbors are the stories we wish to cover, whether they’re serving on City Council, playing in a band or tending the community garden.

You may call me at 910-817-2673 or email me at [email protected] to give us “scoops,” big or little, or tell tell us how we’re doing.

We may work here, but we’re nothing if we don’t care for and listen to our readers.