As a long-time newspaperman, I spend much of my time observing and reporting on the actions of others.
My cameras try to capture the beauty and artistry of high school athletes in their prime, musicians at their heights of creativity and expression and the community around us from an open perspective.
The words I write try to report on the actions of our government or the failures of those who run afoul of the law.
It’s what I do. It’s what I am.
Two encounters this week brought two different, but equally passionate, observations about the ways I go about my chosen role in life.
A young teacher less than half my age provided a refreshing, enthusiastic observation about writing and reporting and observing. She loves to write and is good at capturing stories about the lives around us. The 90 minutes we spent talking about what writing meant to both of us left me with a renewed enthusiasm for what we both do.
We met because she expressed an interest about writing for Blue Ridge Muse. I hope she will. Her perspective and talent would benefit the site and the community.
At the other end of the spectrum was an angry, bitter man older than me. He made it clear he has no use for what I do and feels Floyd County would be much better off if I went away and never came back.
He calls me an “infection of the community,” a “fraud” and an “megalomania-driven monster.”
Two observers of what I do. Two different opinions. Both passionate in their beliefs.
I’m fortunate to have spent most of my life doing what I love and loving what I do. For the most part, I’m a journeyman journalist blessed with far more luck than talent. I’ve been at the right place at the right time.
I’ve done stupid things. I’ve also done bad things. I cannot deny failures in judgment or harm inflicted on others. As a recovering alcoholic, I’ve spent much of my past 21 years, 10 months and 15 days of sobriety trying to make amends to a long list of those harmed by my actions.
What I write for The Floyd Press and BH Media is news and sometimes that news identifies actions by individuals who break the law or the public trust. Every story I write for a newspaper is examined and edited by others.
I wrote columns for The Roanoke Times during my time as a reporter from 1965 ti 1969 and later for The Telegraph in Alton, Illinois, from 1969-1981. The logo used for those columns stated that each was “a personal opinion.”
I’ve write opinion columns for Capitol Hill Blue, a political news web site I started in 1994 and continues today as the oldest political news operation on the Internet. I’ve written opinion-based “Op-Ed” pieces for various newspapers over the years, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune and others.
If I get something wrong, I correct it and apologize. I’m human. Mistakes happen.
I count my blessings and luck for still being able to write for newspapers in a time when the profession itself is under attack and threatened by changes in news delivery and production.
I love spending hours on the sidelines of athletic fields and courts photographing young athletes doing what they love and excelling at their crafts. I love shooting hours of video of music at The Friday Night Jamboree, The Chantilly Farms Bluegrass Festival, The Old Time Fiddlers Convention in Galax and other venues throughout Southwestern Virginia.
Some like what I do.
Some do not.
Each is entitled to their opinions.
It is all part of life.