This is the note I wrote about myself for the special section looking at the history of the Times-News. The degrees of separation between myself and the leadership here in the 1930s is amost none.
Staley Cook hired Don Bolden. Don Bolden hired me — at least the first time.
Intrepid reporter I'm not.
That’s a pretty straight line spanning three generations of covering news in Alamance County. Cook, the longest serving of the 14 or so editors who have guided the newspaper that eventually became the Times-News, got his start here in 1920 as a reporter and became editor in 1937. He brought Don on board in 1955. Don, in conjunction with legendary sports editor Bill Hunter, allowed me the privilege of reporting and writing for people in this community starting in 1984. Don was the editor when I first got here and ranks second only to Cook for longevity in the job.
I think it was November when I took my spot in sports. I arrived just as the sports staff, which at that time included Hunter, Craig Holt and Greg Batten, was completing its annual section previewing high school basketball. I was asked to write a small story to fill a space in the section and assigned to cover a game involving Bartlett Yancey the next night. Because my previous job was at the Reidsville Review, Hunter thought I might know where Yanceyville is located.
Turned out he was right.
Four years after that, I become weekend editor for the Times-News succeeding Doug Norwood, whose mother was an equally legendary but recently retired editor of what was once known as Women’s News. Ultimately, such sections became known as Lifestyles.
About a year later, I was named city editor, which placed me on the path that led me to a place I never expected to be — executive editor of the Times-News — a job basically held by Cook and Bolden for a combined 44-plus years.
Along the way I took a detour to the North Carolina coast. I signed on to be the news editor at the Daily News in Jacksonville, where I later became managing editor.
Never figured I’d be living in Burlington again.
Happily, I was wrong about that.
In 2007 my longtime friend Lee Barnes announced he would be leaving as executive editor and let me know his plans just in case I might be interested. I was. At the time, moving closer to my family in Stokes County was a huge consideration. And I had fond memories of Alamance County.
I arrived back on May 1, 2007 and haven’t regretted it a day.
As we put together plans for a section marking the newspaper’s 125 years of operation, I couldn’t help but remember how little attention I paid to the Times-News centennial celebration in 1987. As a young sports writer my goal then was to cover big-time events and live in a big city while doing so. The history of the newspaper and community was the last thing on my mind.
Since then, I’ve learned a lot about life, journalism, newspapers and community.
Today I’m fascinated by the goings on in Burlington at the turn of the century and the people who started a tradition of newspapering back in the day. None until Cook was trained for the job — they just did it until the work became too exhausting, time-consuming and nerve-wracking. Not much money in it either, which is why many ultimately left.
Things aren’t a whole lot different today. The job of editor — or reporter and photographer for that matter — is all of the things mentioned above. But it’s also rewarding, exhilarating, educational, creative and fun.
I tell people that when the history of the Times-News is added to again in 25 or 50 years I will most likely be described as a sort of missing link in the now rapid evolution of reporting and delivering the news. My first stories as a rookie reporter were pounded out on an electric typewriter, then handed on yellow sheets to typesetters who transformed them into strips pasted upon pages that were sent to camera operators who turned them into negatives and plates. It was a long process that sucked up several hours from the time a story was covered to getting to the homes of readers.
Computers were just around the corner. Still, few saw a time when news would be available at any minute from any place via laptop computer, cell phones and the Internet. Now I can post news online at www.TheTimesNews.com within seconds of a story’s completion — with multiple photos.
Publishing in print, online and in bite-sized morsels for social media outlets is part of the normal day for newspapers.
Until something else comes along.