Good or bad is what I do

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A woman with a son convicted in Floyd County Circuit Court and sent to prison by Judge Marc Long confronted wife Amy at her bingo game in Christiansburg on a recent weekend and took her to task for the story I wrote about the trial.

Her son, she said, was “railroaded” because she was told he was a “confidential informant” and was helping police, not committing a crime.

I remembered the case and I don’t know what her son told the mother but he was someone who had been in trouble with the law previously and was not, at the time, working as an informant when he sold drugs to one.

It’s not unusual to hear from a parent or a relative or even a friend who didn’t like coverage of someone’s appearance, conviction and sentencing in court.  People who commit crimes in Floyd County often go to jail or prison.  Those who get a second chance through probation and a suspended sentence often end up in jail down the road because they often don’t get a third chance with Judge Long.

Sometimes, relatives of a convicted felon corner me outside the courtroom with threats.

“Dont write about this because you will be sorry if you do,” one said recently.  I wrote about it.  Never heard from him.

Contrary to the beliefs of some, I get no pleasure writing about the problems of others.  Too often, I know the families of some who go to prison.  I hurts to see someone sent away from their families, their children or their lives.

Crimes, however, often end in punishment.  I started my journalism career more than 50 years ago covering court for The Floyd Press as a high school student and later as a full-time reporter for The Roanoke Times.  Now, in semi-retirement, I write again about crime and other news here at home.

Covering news means writing about things that are good or bad.  One of the toughest assignments I had for The Roanoke Times from 1965-69 was contacting the family of a Vietnam veteran who died in combat and obtaining information about him for a story.

I remember a father from Rocky Mount screaming into the phone that “you people never wrote about him when he was a good high school student and athlete and now you are only writing about him because he died in a far away land!”

While I understood his frustration I had to try and obtain biographical information to write about a local resident who died serving his country.

Crime, sadly, is a growing problem in Floyd County and elsewhere.  Crystal meth is an epidemic in both production and use.  Burglaries and robberies at on the increase because of the need to obtain money to buy an extremely addictive drug.

Sexual abuse crimes are commonplace now.  A businessman and his son went to prison for trafficking in child pornography.  So did a young man fresh of high school.  An older man in Indian Valley faces multiple life terms for having sex with a young girl under the age of 14.

Two business owners in Floyd were convicted of embezzlement after they converted funds intended for taxes for other uses.  Both are on probation and in repayment programs.

But we also have good news to report.  Floyd is now a prominent tourist destination, thanks to The Friday Night Jamboree, FloydFest and events at Chantilly Farms,  Our high school athletic teams often qualify for playoffs.  Our girls basketball teams, golf teams and cross country groups do well in state events,  The girls’ basketball teams and girls softball have won state championships in recent years,

If I had my druthers, I’d spend all of my time photographing high school sports and shooting video of our music heritage but news is, by nature, good and bad.

Despite the claims of some, what I write, photograph and film is never personal.  It’s what I do and it is what I will keep doing for as long as health allows.

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