Our friend David St. Lawrence, a recent transplant from Charlottesville, wrote the other day about life in Floyd County, a stream-of-consciousness ramble in quasi-verse form. Looks like the poets who dot this landscape like ladybugs on rugs are starting to rub off.
Apart from poets, our local writers seem to be bursting out faster than Spring wildflowers: Fred First, the sage of Goose Creek, is about to publish his first book. David is working on his second one.
Amy has long been on my back to write a book â€“ one based on 40 years in journalism or on my sojourn to the dark side of politics. Either, she claims would be a best seller.
Iâ€™m not so sure. Drop by a Barnes & Noble and you find bookshelves overflowing with long tomes by journalists recounting their view of history or less-than-literate accounts of political life by so-called â€œinsiders.â€
Legendary Chicago newsman Finley Peter Dunne used to say â€œa journalist is an unemployed newspaperman.â€ Iâ€™m not a journalist. Iâ€™m a newspaperman. Always have been (even with not working as one) and always will be. And Iâ€™m an employed newspaperman once again, thanks to The Floyd Press, which allows me to cover the county government, circuit court and shoot pictures of high school athletics. Being able to do so is as much a part of getting back to my roots as reestablishing residence here in Floyd County.
For too long I forgot about the joys of writing for a newspaper. Newspapermen (and women) serve a unique role in a community. It doesnâ€™t matter if you write for a weekly like The Floyd Press or a massive daily like The New York Times. You are the chronicler of life in a community, the conscience of society, always watching, always questioning, and always searching for the truth beyond the hype.
Pete Hallman drilled that into me when I first went to work with him at The Floyd Press in 1963. I was a smartass, know-it-all high school student who saw the Press as a temporary stop on a road to journalistic glory.
â€œNews is not about you,â€ Hallman said. â€œItâ€™s about the people who live here, the community we serve and the events that shape our lives. Become a student of our community and you get the best education of all.â€
Hallmanâ€™s lesson stuck and served me well as I moved on to larger venues. And that same lesson brought me back to Floyd County when I realized that, over time, I had lost the sense of community that comes with small-town journalism.
I donâ€™t know that I will ever write a book. But I will continue to write about the foibles of our local government and photograph the triumphs and failures of high school sports.
Home is not only where the heart is. It is also where real news is found.
And an old newspaperman is here to report it.