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01-04-07, 10:14 AM
Journalism 101: Never pass up an opportunity for an interview for a news story
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

Here’s a tip for future journalists: Grab an interview when it comes your way, even if you are unprepared or busy. You may be passing up your only chance to get it. I was reminded of this lesson Tuesday when I received an unexpected phone call.

I was just getting up from my desk to refill my coffee cup and stretch my legs for a moment when the phone rang. The caller was Danny Swartz, director of the Richlands High School Band. Principal Karen Webb had asked him to call me about the major award the band had won during the Cotton Bowl.

Well, I really wanted a cup of coffee, but Swartz had been kind enough to call. Yes, it was out of the blue, but he was calling from a bus traveling between Nashville and Knoxville, Tenn. The signal was clear, but it had those inevitable walkie-talkie moments when the signal crackles and slips for a second.

My reaction was immediate: I shifted my mental gears as quickly as possible, fumbled for a pen and started asking questions. After all, a local high school band doesn’t win a major award every day. It’s especially important to make sure local people know when a school wins some major recognition on a national stage.

A similar incident happened years ago. A gentleman walked into the news room and told me that the next day was the 50th anniversary of the invasion of Iwo Jima, one of the most famous and important actions of World War II. He had firsthand knowledge of that action because he was a Coast Guard veteran who helped land Marines on that beach. He helped dozens of Marines get to those black beaches, only to learn that just a handful were left days later.

Well, at that moment I was up to my neck in assignments, but I decided immediately that I had to hear his story. He talked about the hardships the Marines endured and the air attacks the Japanese sent against the supporting fleet. One captured pilot turned out to be a woman.

You have to grab your chance when it appears. I don’t always succeed in doing so, but I keep that rule in mind.


During New Year’s Day I tried to do a person on the street feature for Prerogative, a new women’s magazine Managing Editor Samantha Perry is heading up. Since St. Patrick’s Day looms in the future, she wanted to know if area women had a “lucky charm.”

Well, I quickly discovered that local women aren’t very superstitious. I had three interesting replies, but all the other women I spoke to said they had nothing like a lucky charm.

One woman, Edith Hill of Pocahontas, Va., said when asked if she had a charm: “No, all I have is God, and that’s better than a lucky charm.”

Another woman, Karen Farmer of Bluefield, said her dogs and cat were the closest thing she had to a lucky charm. She always carried their pictures in her wallet.

The new executive director of the United Way of the Virginias said she tended to touch her wedding rings for luck, but she wasn’t sure if they simply served as a sort of security blanket.

I see lucky charms for sale in ads all the time. While not getting many “yes” answers was a bit of a bother, it was good to see that people were not spending their money on amulets that are supposed to help them win a lottery or find true love.

Now I’ll admit that I have a “lucky charm” of sorts. It’s a small Chinese dragon figurine I bought at a flea market for a dollar. Standing about three inches tall, my dragon’s one of those statues drowned in red lacquer. Years of sunshine has dulled its glossy shine to a dusty brick red; frankly, I think that gives it more character.

Chinese dragons are supposed to be lucky, so I keep it standing next to my computer. I’m not sure if it brings me any luck, but I like it, and I suppose it is a security blanket of sorts. In this turbulent times, ever little bit of comfort helps.

Greg Jordan is a reporter for the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at gjordan@bdtonline.com.