There Are No Favors In News
Let me begin by saying that running a rural newspaper can be odd sometimes.
I grew up in this small town. I know a lot of people and they know me.
There are some beautiful, lovely things about life in a small town. I call it Hooterville, but I do like it.
If I didn't, I would move.
I have a lot of friends and there are a ton of people I respect. You have to understand that my family goes back here for generations. The first woman in this county to petition the court to own property was one of my ancestors.
My mother was a beauty queen, winning "Miss Dresden" (much to her dismay, she hated it.) Her friends from high school, the baby boomers if you will, are basically now the town fathers.
They still treat me as Jacqueline's kid, but that's part of it.
Where is this going, you might be asking yourself.
Yesterday, I spent a lot of time on the phone and in court. I used to be in court a lot more than I am now that I've moved into administration.
But today, it needed to be me.
A man who is a real estate attorney in this burg was arrested yesterday for allegedly transferring $1.1 million dollars from his client's accounts into others, including his own. His alleged victims are all people I know.
$1.1 million dollars.
He was one of my mother's best friends in high school.
The man practically raised me. He had a son my age and we lived in the same neighborhood growing up. He used to sit on his front porch watching us tear up the streets on our bikes.
I sat alone in court in the capacity of reporter yesterday. I took the story because I knew it was coming a couple of weeks ago and I also knew that it had to be done. I don't run anything (rumors on this story at that point) without attribution.
The charges were filed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation around 1 p.m. I sat in court at 2:30 watching the judge set a $50,000 bond, which he made.
As we walked outside and he headed to the Detention Center to get printed and his mugshot made, I ran into him as I was getting out of my car.
"You're going front page," I said. "I'm treating you like anybody else that's been arrested."
"I know," was all he said back to me.
And he is. He is our lead story.
I sat this morning writing the story, reading over real estate law and five affadavits of complaint of the charges (all theft of property over $60,000) knowing that this man sat with my mother when she was dying. That he held me as we stood in the funeral home, burying my mother and his friend.
There are no favors in news.
I can't recuse myself like the judge and the attorney general have done.
The paper still has to come out.
It's big news in Northwest Tennessee, and the charges are huge against him. I'm sending the story to my publisher within the next 30 minutes after I add the quotes from the local DA. My publisher is an AP affiliate (we are not.) He told me yesterday we will embargo until 8 a.m.
And, I had to look him in the face, because his mugshot will appear today on the front page along with a man who plead guilty on a sexual battery charge.
There are no favors in news.
And to his credit, he didn't ask me for one because he knew he was going to go top fold. He knew I would do it, and I am.
I have a reputation for being tough. Tough but fair. I have fought for this for the last 16 years.
It's something I pride myself in.
The intimate relationships we have with folks are secondary when it comes to delivering the news, especially news like this.
And yeah, I'm writing this from a personal perspective.
Because this is a personal blog and not the newspaper.
Rural media is not always easy. I'm not judging this man's guilt or innocence. It's not my job to.
Will he get jail time?
I don't know. I just report it.
So sometimes, things aren't easy but no one ever promised they would be.
You see, even in a small paper like mine, there are times, despite being tough and fair, that you can't help but be impacted by what must be done. We are more than recipes and church bulletins.