Chris Graham | The Valley’s Favorite
Some news reporter I am. The announcement was in the Friday, Aug. 28 News Virginian, in the paper’s annual Valley’s Favorites section, and I find out about it today at the high-school cross-country meet at Augusta Expoland.
Outside of realizing the irony that I was outside the loop on a bit of rather important news involving me, I’m of course highly honored to have been named the Valley’s Favorite Newspaper Reporter, as the official designation proclaims me.
I’ve never been voted anybody’s Favorite at anything, as far back as I can remember. I mean, OK, I’ve won several professional awards, and they mean a lot, especially the three that we won for The New Dominion Magazine in this year’s Virginia Press Association magazine awards.
But this one, this one is special. My journalism career started at the News Virginian 14 years ago this month, September 1995, when I took a spelling and grammar test for then-sports editor Jim Gordon and apparently did well enough to earn an invite to the newsroom for a Friday night answering phones to take football scores. I did that for a few weeks, then filled in for the obit lady, the late Kay Dean, the week of Christmas, and eventually talked my way into a job in the newsroom covering local politics, City Hall, and anything and everything else going on around town.
I had zilch in terms of formal training, but I knew how to listen, and I learned quickly that you didn’t get a lot done sitting around the newsroom reading the news wire. My little Geo Metro, dubbed the World’s Fastest Geo after I got a speeding ticket in it racing to cover an execution at the state prison in Jarratt in 1999, rang up about 30,000 miles a year on its odometer in my NV years.
(I miss those mileage checks!)
What we do now with AugustaFreePress.com and The New Dominion Magazine is the result of what I learned at the News Virginian.
And yeah, I still hear from people who read my old “I’ll Say Anything” columns from back in the day who remember that I proposed to the former Crystal Abbe at the end of one of my columns. And I have to say, Yes, that’s really the way I proposed to her, and yes, it was quite ballsy to have done it that way, and yes, I was planning to move to Alaska to work for the Nome paper if things hadn’t worked out.
Our Augusta Free Press Publishing office is across the street from where I worked back then. The window in my office looks into the old NV building. To have been voted the Valley’s Favorite Newspaper Reporter by the readers of the paper where I cut my teeth as a journalist is humbling.
As is the irony of how a former editor of the same paper commented in print that I wasn’t a “real reporter” after leaving the mainstream media to launch AugustaFreePress.com in 2002. And the irony of, well, to be technical about it, I’m not actually a newspaper reporter, since my writing appears online at the AFP and in print in our monthly magazine.
That all being the case, the hometown folks voted for me just the same. And given the caliber of opposition – the two-time defending champ in the voting was beloved NV sports columnist Jim Sacco – I’m aware that this is rarefied air.
A Pulitzer couldn’t mean as much.
– Column by Chris Graham