Jim Echols, city editor for The Roanoke Times when I joined the staff there in 1965, gave me what he called "The Three Gs" of newspaper reporting.
- Get the story;
- Get it by deadline;
- Get it before the competition.
Those three rules stuck with me for four decades of reporting. Even now, as a part-time, contract reporter and photographer for the weekly Floyd Press, I try to remember Jim’s "Three Gs."
Writing for a weekly means a more relaxed deadline — once a week as compared to every day. But it also means a lag time of up to seven days between the time you discover a story and the day it is published.
Whenever we do beat the competition (primarily the Times in Roanoke and the TV stations), it is cause for a little celebration.
For example: On Friday, December 12, an aonymous tip left on my voice mail said the Virginia State Police had filed criminal charges against former Floyd County Commonwealth’s Attorney Gordon Hannett. I checked the court database and found that, yes, six charges — three for petty larceny and three for computer crimes — were filed earlier that day.
By Monday, I nailed the story down and wrote it for the Thursday, December 18 edition of the Press. That left three days to worry about either the Times or the TV stations stumbling across the story. They didn’t and the Press broke the story on Thursday. I followed up with a post here on Muse and it appeared first in The Times because they link to the headlines here. They finally had a story on Friday.
It wasn’t the first time we beat the competition to a big story here in Floyd County. Hopefully, it won’t be the last.