Bluefield Daily Telegraph
It’s much easier for me to interview someone than it is to be interviewed, so I’m sure I rambled on and on to the student journalist, Jahlisa Harvey, who interviewed me last Tuesday at the Bluefield College Media Appreciation Luncheon. She was very nice. I also spoke briefly with Angi Highlander, the BC student who was also honored with a Shott Excellence in Media Award. I told Ms. Highlander how impressed I was with her commitment to community service. Another student journalist, Trey Wilson, floored me when he told me he was a fan of my work. It was a humbling experience.
When I’m at work, I generally think about what I’m doing and, unfortunately, I have developed a bad case of tunnel vision. My editor, Samantha Perry — an admitted bad liar — called me into her office on the Friday before the BC luncheon to ask me to cover the luncheon because Charles Owens, assistant managing editor, was the honoree.
Actually, my publisher, Darryl Hudson, suggested that Sam fib to me to get me there, and I think she was shocked that it worked. I work weekends. As a result, Monday and Tuesday are my traditional days off, but it all made sense to me about Charles and I told Samantha I would cover the luncheon, but I didn’t want to switch days off. I had too many other things to do Tuesday afternoon.
Charles has actually been at the Daily Telegraph longer than me. He was writing for the “Neighbors,” section in the paper when I was at the Twin State News Observer. He was an adamant champion of all things McDowell County, which I respect a great deal, and the people of the county also appreciate it. I was writing that story in my head on the morning before the luncheon.
I attended the funeral of my friend, Betty Corte that morning, but sat in the back of the First United Methodist Church in Bluefield, Va., so I could slip out early to attend the luncheon. I thanked God that my work as a newsman had afforded me the opportunity to become friends with Betty and Stelio Corte and their family. Betty was such a great friend and a lifelong supporter of this area. They both were.
On my drive to the luncheon, Samantha called me to ask if was still coming to the event. I get a kick out of Sam’s enthusiasm, however, she later confessed that it was Charles who asked where I was, prompting her to call. We’re all three a lot alike in that respect. Sam mentioned that I’m always early to everything, and she is right. Even old guys in the news business go head-long at full speed all the time, only now, at my age, I take an afternoon nap on my days off so I can rest up before I go to bed to get a full night’s sleep. One full-night’s sleep can do wonders for a person. Just one.
I ate my delicious lunch with a new colleague — Jackie Puglisi — a BC grad who is a copy editor here at the Telegraph and doing a great job! I kept my note pad on my lap so Charles couldn’t see. Tammie Toler, a Shott Media Excellence honoree in 2009, correctly pointed out to me that I knew something was up when Chris Shoemaker said the person started with a weekly newspaper in 1986. Later, I referred to my notes and saw that I wrote “198C,” and stopped writing. I didn’t even finish the curl on the 6. Charles couldn’t imagine that I was tricked. I thought about writing something in this column that I knew all along, but that wouldn’t be accurate.
I couldn’t type when I went to college, so I washed out of J-18 — the basic class for all J-school students in the fall of 1967 at West Virginia University. I learned from my parents never to quit, and it took me 18 years until Mike Shott and Keith Blevins took a chance on a guy who couldn’t type. Together, and with a lot of help, we created a community newspaper called the Twin-State Marketer. At the Marketer, Bill Armor taught me to inject passion into my work and Don Cuppett taught me respect ... respect for veterans and respect for all people. I loved reading Don’s “Past Times” columns in the Telegraph.
I’ve been blessed to have a wife who understands that every day in the life of a newsman doesn’t start at 9 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. I’ve been blessed to work with publishers, editors, photographers, fellow writers and production staffers who accept the snarls and craziness that comes out of me when I’m pushing against a deadline. But most of all, I have been blessed by readers who accept me for who I am and who welcome the stories I write. I know not everyone agrees with everything I write, and I respect that. However, I remain eternally thankful to all the people who urged me to come back to the paper on the few times I tried to run away. You all are the reason I’m here and not out working somewhere else. You see, I can’t type. Ain’t it the truth, Smokey?
Bill Archer is senior editor at the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at email@example.com.