Wednesday, May 31, 2006

With the ink-stained wretches

The Capital Press Corps has lost some of its veteran newshounds recently, and it’s a shame for readers and viewers who want to know what’s going on in Raleigh. The news business is like any other, of course: People come and go from time to time as the workplace offers them other ways to make a living.
Seth Effron, who worked at the Fayetteville Times and at the Greensboro News and Record before inventing the N.C. newsletter called the insider and later ran State Government Radio for Curtis Media, joined Gov. Mike Easley's press operation earlier this year. He was an aggressive newsman who found out stuff and made it known -- including stuff politicians didn't much want out.
Not long ago my friend Tim Crowley left UNC TV, where he had been a mainstay of its legislative coverage for years, to join the staff of Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue. Tim cut his journalistic eyeteeth in radio and has a good feel for what’s important. He also had a way of cocking his head and raising an eyebrow that communicated his reaction when some politician was feeding him a line of bull.
He did an Elvis imitation – Elvis imitating Speaker Jim Black, in fact – at the end-of-the-legislative session annual press corps follies a few years ago that made the audience howl, though that may have had more to do with the evening’s high spirits than resemblance to the King or the Speaker. His leaving the press corps was a reminder of another loss several years ago, when reporter John Bason left public TV to join the staff of Attorney General Roy Cooper. Bason’s acoustic guitar send-up of an Eagles tune was a hilarious but gentle poke at the governor: “Take it Easley.”
Now the pencil press has lost one of its best reporters. David Rice, longtime Raleigh correspondent for the Winston-Salem Journal, has left to join the law firm of Manning Fulton to work in its government relations division. If you didn’t read the Journal you might not be aware of David’s reportorial reach. He honchoed the paper’s coverage of the possible relocation of a major league baseball team a few years ago and was the resident expert on the old tobacco price support system and the complicated tobacco buyout. He somehow managed to round up more pithy quotes than an ink-stained wretch is normally entitled to stumble into. His story about a nearly 900-pound bear shot down East in Craven County by a cousin of Dolly Parton seemed appropriate coverage; David had written about wildlife in the legislature for a long time, too.
I think it was a mark of the trust lawmakers put in David that when Sen. Hamilton Horton got sick last fall, he notified Rice to tell him what was going on and what his prospects were. David used to play Sen. Horton – decked out in a bow tie and a definitely non-Forsyth County accent – at the press corp follies.
Now Ham Horton has gone to his reward and David has gone over, as our colleague Paul O’Connor puts it, to the dark side. Readers of the Journal will miss him and the stories he used to put in the paper.


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