Threats, criticisms and personal attacks go with the territory when you cover news. When a shooter killed John Lennon many years ago, I wrote about the public outcry over his murder and wondered in print if it was way too much fretting over the death of a former pop idol.
That brought an anonymous threat to the Alton Telegraph, the newspaper that published the column, and a warning that I should be the next target of “some mad killer.”
An anonymous letter arrived this past week at the offices of The Floyd Press, expressing anger at my coverage of a court case where an Indian Valley man faces 29 counts of possession of child pornography.
“People like you give Christians and good reporters a bad name,” the letter read. “You judge him him, I thought God was still in charge, but if you are perfect the maybe he did leave you in charge.”
Actually, in the case of the 20-year-old man facing child pornography cases, the Floyd County Circuit Court is in charge and he faces trial in January. I wrote one story for the Press about the indictments. I also mentioned the latest case in a piece here on Blue Ridge Muse. I will cover his trial in a couple of months.
The letter claimed that, by writing the story, I was “putting someone down.” I didn’t see it that way. Neither did the editors at the Press. I was simply writing a news piece about indictments handed down by a county grand jury — nothing more, nothing less.
I don’t write such stories with glee. Covering the expanding crime base in Floyd County is one of the most depressing parts of my duties of The Floyd Press. But it is necessary chore in an information-driven environment.
When someone’s criminal record helps illustrate a story, I include such information not from satisfaction but from a need to provide all the information. Sometimes I’m accused of trying to “stir things up.” Yes, some stories result in an uproar but not from any personal satisfaction. I would rather shoot photos of high school sports or videos of the Friday Night Jamboree or the Chantilly Farms Bluegrass Festival.
Blue Ridge Muse is sometimes called a web site that focuses on sordid news. I scanned the news published on this web site and found 3,833 items published since we started Muse in 2004.
Coverage of the area’s music culture accounted for 39 percent of the stories, photo features and videos. Athletics accounted for 31 percent. Photo features and videos about the area’s beauty and culture covered 16 percent. Notices of upcoming events generated 12 percent.
That accounted for 98 percent of the items written by me and published on Muse. The remaining two percent — yes, two percent, included stories about crime, malfeasance, politics and scandal.
I am called a “lib” or a “leftie” by conservatives and a “right winger” by liberals. Hopefully, I’m neither.
Over the years, I have been charged in Internet postings with various crimes and misdemeanors. In reality, I have never been charged or convicted with any misdemeanor or felony in my life. My driver’s license has “plus five points” and the record is clear. You will not find my name or any of my business interests in any court file in Floyd County or elsewhere.
Does that make me perfect? Hell, no. I make mistakes all the time. When I screw up, I try to admit it and move on.
I love life and writing about it, taking photos and shooting videos. Sometimes I write tongue-in-cheek — a dangerous thing to dry in a society where too many people take far too much way too seriously.
I am a recovering alcoholic and celebrated 20 years of sobriety in June.
I love what I do and I try to offer a service to the community by documenting the life we live. Most of the time, it is a joyous life with enjoyable people.
Ideally, it would always be that way but this is not an ideal world. When it is not, I will share the sorrow of others and report what happens.