I am, my nature, a passionate man, driven by strong opinions and emotion.
Such traits served my chosen profession of journalism well. A passion for uncovering the truth allows a journalist to forge ahead without regard to consequences.
“I’ve hired you to do a job,” Jim Echols, the city editor of The Roanoke Times told me in 1965. “If you do your job right it means most people in this town will get pissed off at you. Six months from now, it they’re not, I’ll fire your ass and find somebody who will.”
Fortunately, for the sake of my career and payments on a new Mustang, I did my job right. Within six months, the Roanoke City police department declared me persona non grata for writing a story about their beating of a black prisoner and the school superintendent banned me from city schools for exposing faults in school security.
My ability to get under people’s skins followed me to the next newspaper job in Alton, Illinois, where I quickly angered local officials for daring to suggest, in print, that they might not be doing their job. One night, I left a bar in Alton to find my car’s tired slashed and windows broken.
“That’s good,” said Elmer Broz, city editor of The Telegraph. “That means you’re getting to them.” It also got my insurance rates raised
In the 70s, while I pissed people off in downstate Illinois, a Washington paper tried to hire legendary Chicago columnist Mike Royko. He turned the job down.
“It wouldn’t work,” he said. “I don’t hate anybody in Washington.”
I didn’t hate anyone in Washington either but we moved there in 1981 and left town 23 years later with a number of federal officials and politicos glad to see me go.
Now I’m in Floyd, supposedly retired, and apparently pissing people off once again.
Because of a story I wrote about a vote that appeared to be a conflict of interest, county supervisor Diane Belcher no longer speaks to me.
That prompted another supervisor, who shall remain nameless, to corner me after a recent meeting and ask:
“How did you do that? I’ve been trying to get her to stop speaking to me for years?”