The newspaper biz is not all glitz and glamour
On today’s stroll down memory lane, we’ll take a look at the dirty underside of the newspaper business. Let’s call it crimes and those who commit them.
I’d not been here long before I learned that, as a reporter, part of my job was to report crimes, suspected crimes, alleged crimes and things that might be crimes. I’d have to talk to the police, the criminals, attorneys and (rarely) judges.
Most times the crimes were meanness or had to do with drugs or people who think they should be have something that someone else owns. More recently, a lot of the crimes have to do with people (mainly men) assaulting or killing other people (mainly women) they claim to love.
My buddy Vic MacDonald has made it a personal mission to bring some light to this dark, dark part of our community.
Back in the day (one of my favorite clichés) when all the McGee boys worked here, we were plugged into the local crime scene. I don’t mean the McGees committed crimes, but they knew about them almost before they happened.
That’s how Ernie Segars and I learned a downtown store had been robbed and the man working in the store had been killed. Ernie headed to the scene and, just as I was leaving, I learned the police had one of the men cornered behind the Gate Station.
I was there in less than a minute. Back then, the Gate was just gas pumps and a small building for the attendant. Behind the store was woods. That’s where the action was happening.
I parked in the parking lot of the Mary Musgrove Hotel (now the School of Pharmacy) and walked across the street and into a clearing where two police cars sat with lights blasting.
When I got about 30 yards away from the woods, Ches Richards appeared with the bad guy. I can’t remember if Ches was the chief of police or still the assistant chief. He had the guy by the shirt collar and was hauling him toward his patrol car. Ches still had his gun drawn and by his side.
He saw me and, with a wave of the gun in my direction, said, “Get outa here!”
Part of my mind flashed with thoughts of the First Amendment and Freedom of the Press. The smarter part of my brain thought, “That’s probably a good idea.”
I snapped a couple quick pictures and retreated to my vehicle. The resulting picture – of Ches hauling the guy out of the woods – was the first award I won in SC Press Association competition.
Another time, I heard on the scanner a guy had wrecked a motorcycle out in the boonies. It turned out the guy had run down a pretty deep embankment. The highway patrol and EMS were already on the scene.
This may come as a surprise, but alcohol was involved. About the time I got to the top of the bank, the trooper was trying to help the motorcyclist up the hill.
The cyclist saw me and my camera. He didn’t cotton to the idea of having his picture made. “Don’t take my picture,” he said. I did. “When I get up there, I’m going to whip your butt (he didn’t really say butt).”
What I wanted the trooper to say is, “If you try to harm one precious hair on that wonderful man’s head, I’ll pistol whip you and deny I ever saw you.”
But what he actually said was, “OK. Do that if you want to. But, if you do, I’ll charge you with assault, too.”
I can’t say for sure how the motorcycle guy responded to that comment/threat. By the time he got to the top of the bank, I was halfway back to Clinton.
That was far from the only time I was threatened with bodily harm. One time, the manager of a wrestling bear said he was coming down to the office and bringing his bear and one of them was going to jerk me over the counter. I am not making that up.
(Nobody could tell a story like Julian Wilson. Nobody could make me laugh like Julian Wilson. I’m sure going to miss him.)
(Larry Franklin is soon to retire as publisher of The Chronicle. His blog is on www.MyClintonNews.com.)