05/23/12 — Price talks about, reflects on years in journalism with the News-Argus

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Price talks about, reflects on years in journalism with the News-Argus

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on May 23, 2012 1:46 PM

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Former News-Argus Editor Emeritus Gene Price speaks to a gathering at the Wayne County Museum on Tuesday evening. Price, a member of the North Carolina Journalism Hall of Fame, described his career in newspapers as part of a lecture series accompanying the county Historical Association's journalism exhibit.

Former News-Argus Editor Emeritus Gene Price was the guest speaker Tuesday night in the latest of a series of lectures being held in conjunction with the Wayne County Museum's exhibit on journalism.

Price, who served the newspaper in an editor's capacity for more than half a century, recalled his start as a writer and some of the people he worked with during his career, including Wayne County native Gene Roberts, the Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the New York Times.

"The short sentence is the best tool of communication, written or oral," said Price, who was named to the North Carolina Journalism Hall of Fame last year.

As an example, he described his hiring Roberts, who didn't make a great impression on his first interview. Several days later, Price said, he wrote the young Roberts a short letter, offering him a job as a reporter. The letter came back with a terse note scribbled across the bottom, saying only "I'll take it."

Price, a native of the Elizabeth City area, grew up rambling the woods and creeks of northeast North Carolina. He attended East Carolina University, working for both the school's sports information office and the Greenville newspaper.

He began his career at the Elizabeth City Independent, where he learned the craft of news writing from editor W.O. Saunders, whom Price called "one of the greatest unsung newspaper editors in North Carolina."

Price eventually took a job with the Norfolk Pilot, covering the waterfront beat. He also worked for a time for the late Congressman Herbert C. Bonner and pulled a stint in the Army during the Korean War.

He came to the News-Argus as city editor after Hal Tanner Sr. bought the paper, with Henry Belk in the editor's seat. Belk, who was blind, taught his reporters to write "so that he could see" what they were describing, Price said, a lesson he tried to pass on to the young writers who worked for him. Price was later named managing editor and then editor. He officially retired in the early 1990s but continued to write columns and editorials until after the turn of the century.

His book, "Folks Around Here," is a compilation of some of his favorite stories.

During Price's years as editor, the newspaper took the lead in investigating several cases of corruption among local officials. Price said his greatest pride came from uncovering the misdeeds of public officials.

"That's your job, by gosh, to look out for your people in situations where they're being taken advantage of. If a newspaper isn't doing that, it isn't doing its job."

A hunter and fisherman since boyhood, Price was appointed to the state Wildlife Commission and served as its chairman for years. He said that as chairman his first concern was strengthening and enforcing the hunting and fishing laws and later, helping create programs to bring back some species that were becoming scarce, such as quail and wild turkeys, both of which now are thriving in the state again.