What’s Happening Now? The spotlight shines on a news gatherer

By Linda Ash

Sometimes the news gatherer becomes a news maker. It’s not always a comfortable position to be in for a journalist, but that’s what happened Tuesday when a Northern Virginia Daily photographer on his way to cover a bank robbery at BB&T in Middletown noticed something suspicious.

The photographer, Rich Cooley, notified police, who followed up on his tip. The end result: a suspect was taken into custody outside a condominium complex in Strasburg a few hours after the robbery.

Middletown Police Chief R. Philip Breeden praised Cooley’s help in apprehending the suspect in a story in Wednesday’s Daily.

“Had it not have been for Rich giving us the information he did when he arrived on the initial scene … then we would not have been able to locate our suspect as quickly as we did,” he said.

In general, journalists don’t enjoy being in the spotlight. We don’t want to be a part of the story, but there are times when the news gatherer finds himself or herself in the right place at the right time – or in the wrong place at the wrong time. Cooley’s keen eye has served the Daily for many years, and on Tuesday, his instincts served the public.

So, I’ll just mention this one more time and we’ll move on – great job, Rich!

‘I read it to the very end’

We had a wonderful story in the paper recently about a mom and her miracle baby written by Daily reporter Kim Walter. I heard one person note that she read that story to the very end. Now, that’s an endorsement!

It’s no secret how you read our stories. You scan the photos and headlines, and if one catches your interest, you pause to read the first couple of paragraphs of the story. If it really grabs your attention, you will turn the page to read it to the very end.

When I was a reporter – a long, time ago – my favorite stories to write were about people.

Don’t get me wrong, news stories from school and government meetings are vitally important, as are those about public safety, but I enjoyed getting out of the office and stepping into someone else’s world, even if it was for an hour or an afternoon. I still fondly recall some of the features I wrote about: the woman who painted Ukrainian Easter eggs, the men in a little Pennsylvania town who built a flying saucer replica to welcome UFOs and their alien passengers to town, and then there was the young boy in Florida who was born without arms.

One of my favorite stories that I’ve told new reporters about is when, as an assistant city editor at a newspaper in Louisiana, I had assigned a young reporter to drive out into the country to do a story about a woman guarding her garden with a shotgun. Her daughter had called in and asked me to do a story on her 80-year-old mother. Someone, the daughter told me, had been stealing vegetables out of her mother’s garden, and her mother got so mad that she had decided to sit in the rocking chair on her porch each night with a shotgun to ward off the thief.

The young reporter balked. “Where’s the story in that?” he argued.

I told him to get going, and he did. He came back with a story that literally went around the world, thanks to radio personality Paul Harvey, who picked it up for his show.

Everyone has a story that someone will want to read to the very end. What’s yours?

Contact Editor Linda Ash at lash@nvdaily or at 540-465-5137 ext. 163.