05/24/04 — OPINION -- Recollections

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OPINION -- Recollections

By Gene Price
Published in News on May 24, 2004 1:57 PM

Nocturnal Rambler

"Names make news."

Reporters who came up in the old days of family newspapering often were told that by their editors. It simply meant that folks enjoyed seeing their names or those of their friends in print. Depending on the circumstances, of course!

News-Argus City Editor Don McLoud came through like a champion of that old school philosophy in his column in the May 16 issue.

He had awakened at 3 a.m. and drove around the city to see what went on at that time of night. Don discovered and subsequently shared with his readers a new dimension of life in Goldsboro -- people who make their living working at night, or beginning their work "day" long before others are awake.

He stopped and chatted with many of them and got their "stories."

His column contained the names of more than half a dozen people who might otherwise never have found themselves mentioned in their hometown newspaper.

It brought to mind a popular News-Argus column that ran for many years -- "Rambling in Rural Wayne."

A reporter would drive around the county each day, stopping to chat with folks in their fields and barns, in their kitchens, at their clotheslines and in the country stores. The daily Rambling column told of what our people were doing and what they were thinking, how their crops looked and, not infrequently, what a sumptuous meal a farmwife had served the impromptu visitor.

George Johnson, now long retired, was one of the favorite ramblers among our rural folks. As was the late Paul Barwick who, carrying a big Speed Graphic camera, managed to travel the county, climb fences and cross plowed fields -- on crutches. He had been crippled by a childhood playground accident.

The most famous, of course, was Gene Roberts. He started his newspaper career as the "rambler" -- and ended up as editor of The New York Times.

Folks always remembered their "ramblers."

Once, while covering the Vietnam War for The Times. Roberts crawled into a basement where U.S. soldiers had been besieged for days during the 1968 Tet offensive.

"I'm Gene Roberts from The New York Times. I'm here to get your story," he announced.

From a dark corner, one of the soldiers responded:

"Didn't you used to write Rambling in Rural Wayne for the News-Argus?"

The young soldier was from Pikeville -- which also was Gene Roberts' hometown!