Friends often ask “why do you keep plugging away at working for newspapers when they are a dying breed ?”
The answer is simple: I don’t feel like what I have been doing for most of my life is a dying cause. Yes, newspapers have lost ground, especially too many local papers that are shells of themselves, but they still, I believe, have a purpose.
My first photographs and stories appeared in a local paper in Farmville, Va., (The Farmville Herald) back in the late 1950s. Likewise, my first newspaper regular job came at The Floyd Press in 1962, when then editor and owner Pete Hallman gave me a full-time position as a reporter and photographer while I attended the then-new consolidated high school.
By 1981, at age 33, I had been a full-time newspaperman for 18 years. Today, at age 73, I have written stories and shot photos for newspapers for 45 years. I cannot, and will not, consider that a waste of time on a losing cause.
I believe that the outcome of this year’s presidential election is due, in large part, by the incredible work by mainstream newspapers like The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Roanoke Times, the Richmond Times-Disptach. I take some pride that my work has appeared, as a contractor, for three of those five papers over those 45 years and continues, when asked or assigned.
Conversely, the incredible misinformation on voter fraud that doesn’t exist, among other lies, comes from so-called “social media” passed on over Twitter, Facebook and others.
My work for The Floyd Press covers 19 years as a reporter or contractor. I have written several hundred stories and taken more than 3,000 photos for that publication in a three-year period form 1962-65 and 2004-2020.
Tonight, I will shoot photos for the paper as sports resumes, after a nine-month delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic, at Floyd County High School.
Those photos attempt to try and inform the residents of Floyd County and help, I hope, them understand what is happening in our community. I did the same for Southwestern Virginia in the late 1960s for The Roanoke Times, the Metro-East area of St. Louis for The Telegraph in Alton, IL, from 1969-81 and national audiences as a contract journalist for national newspapers and wire services for more than half of our 23 years in Washington, DC.
Some stories and photos tell of fun at places like The Friday Night Jamboree, FloydFest, sporting events and other pleasant events. Some are not so pleasant, like court cases involving child pornography, sexual abuse, murder and crimes.
Several years ago, for the Floyd Press, I wrote stories about an attempt by a con man from England who tried to scam this county on reports of a data center that would never be built but which area residents were asked to donate to and support. Some said our stories were wrong. He went to prison for similar scams and the county lost money for what he promised but never delivered.
That kind of unpleasant news is also necessary for a newspaper that tries to serve its community.
I hope to do the same kind of work for whatever is left of my life here in Floyd County.
A waste of time?
I hope not.