I normally veer from airing my opinion as a columnist in the editorial pages on issues that I cover as a news writer in the news pages for The Smoky Mountain News.
In my world, and in the worlds of most respectable reporters and editors, news is news and opinion — well, the less said about that the better. It’s easier to pretend that we were born into this world devoid of any such thing (opinion? what’s that? never heard of it) than to try and explain the more accurate, but deeply complex, truth. That yes, of course, we news gatherers do have opinions about the stories we cover.
We are human; humans have opinions.
But, as the wise judge instructs the jury, our job isn’t to be devoid of opinions: that’s impossible. Our job, whether jury or news gatherer, is to set those opinions aside. For the jury, the goal is to render a verdict in accordance with law; for reporters, the goal is to report stories based on facts.
All that said, and I now want to comment in this column on two recent news topics I’ve covered as a reporter for The Smoky Mountain News.
One is Swain County High School’s successful capture of its eighth state football championship. As a 1984 graduate of that fine institution, and as a former Maroon Devils marching band member who sat in the stands and froze her rear end off year after year during numerous championship runs, I can’t help but give a shout-out to the school. Go Maroon Devils!
(And for the record, I’d like everyone to note that I do know how to use an apostrophe correctly. My headline to the contrary last week, a single Devil most certainly did not play all those football games this season.
In an “oh, oops” moment, the apostrophe wondered away from its rightful place in the headline — Devils’ — to inside the “s,” hence the embarrassing, and suddenly singular, “Devil’s.” Hey, there’s no doubt the football team is amazing, but it is made up of many devils, not simply one devil.)
Winning a state championship is a big deal. And I’ll tell you what’s an even bigger deal in my book — that Swain County did it with Coach Sam Pattillo placing such a decided emphasis on academics.
Earlier this year, former staff writer Colby Dunn (who, in a moment of insanity, accepted a job in Holland as an au pair. I kid you not, she’s in that fine country at this moment learning to speak Dutch and shepherding about two towheaded Dutch children) wrote a terrific story about the Swain football team’s reading program.
Pattillo teamed with English department head Dawn Gilchrist-Young, both fine products of Swain County High School — I’m certain neither of them would put an apostrophe on the wrong side of the “s” — in developing the program. Each summer, team members read books intended to both capture football players’ interests and enhance these student athletes’ reading skills.
Pretty cool, that’s my opinion; and even cooler now that the Devils up and won a state championship. Perhaps other area schools could institute the same reading program.
Story No. 2: I wrote this week about “preppers,” or people getting ready for they don’t know what — the Rapture or the next blizzard, they’re not sure, but by golly they aren’t going to be caught unawares and unprepared.
This is a hard subject to strike the correct tone on.
It’s difficult frankly to write about preparedness without making the people involved sound like a bunch of nuts. But also to write an article that does not stray into the nutty side that does permeate this topic.
Anyone reading this column on an even occasional basis must realize that I’m a true believer in sustainable living. I like being able to do for myself, to know how to raise vegetables and animals, and to have adequate knowledge and skills to take care of me and mine. I’m currently living in an all-solar powered house, I have a garden, I take care of livestock, and I preserve food. Does this make me a nut? Well, OK, I may be a nut, but not because I believe in sustainability. That’s perhaps the sanest part of my personality.
Sustainability is fun, sustainability is friendly to this planet, and sustainability is smart.
A small, and to me at this point in my life, an amusing confession: Before I abstained from drinking, one of my biggest concerns when it comes to sustainability was being absolutely sure I would have an adequate supply of drinks even if the world as we know it ended. I learned to brew a variety of alcoholic beverages, from moonshine to wine. I, at least, wasn’t going to go without a drink even if the world’s supply lines of booze suddenly went dry.
I noticed brewing books being sold in Carolina Readiness Supply in Waynesville. This makes me suspect that I wasn’t the only person paddling that particular sustainability boat. I’ve also noticed in recent years that some seed catalogues have taken to offering tobacco seed (often amazingly touted as “organic,” as if that mattered when you smoke cigarettes) for the home grower.
I guess in the event of apocalypse the human race will go out with a smoke in one hand and a drink in the other. Even in these days as a committed nondrinker and nonsmoker, I admit that sounds like a pretty damn fine way to say goodbye.
Bottoms up, a puff of smoke and The End.