Good guys do finish first

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 27, 2005

First, I’d like to congratulate my pal Cal Bryant on his promotion to Editor of the R-C News-Herald and the Gates County Index. There is no better person for the job and recognition for his determined hard work is, frankly, long overdue.

I don’t believe I’ve ever met anybody who put so much of his time and energy into a job. I’ve known professionals – superintendents of schools, lawyers, doctors, etc. – who are absolutely devoted to their jobs, but not a one of them works as hard as Cal in putting out a quality newspaper three times a week (and all those wonderful special !).

Unlike the professional people I mentioned who also work mighty hard, Cal has worked most of his career at the paper at subsistence wages with few benefits that carry over to retirement. And he doesn’t complain. He doesn’t gripe. He doesn’t bemoan the time he has lost (the many vacation days he never took or had to cancel), the times he has come to work an 18-hour day when he was so sick it made me miserable looking at him, or the time he wasn’t able to spend with his family – something that is very important to him.

I can’t hang with the man. His dogged determination to get the job done – and to spend the extra hours working to get the job done up to his standards – takes a dedication that I’ve never attained.

I’ve always been in awe of his work ethic, but his creativity is just as impressive, whether it’s composing a photograph, coming up with a snappy headline, putting together an interesting and informative story, or creating pages that stand out.

Though many people are unaware of the long, hard hours Cal puts into getting the paper out, there are many readers of the R-C News-Herald who realize they get a special product in their front yards or mailboxes three times weekly. While we can’t give Cal Bryant all the credit – there are a very few people who all work very hard to get the newspaper to people’s homes – he deserves a huge chunk of it.

As impressive as his accomplishments are, the most amazing thing about Cal is that he is genuinely a joy to be around. He’s always got a joke or funny story to tell and he makes each person he speaks to feel special. A lot of those hard working professionals I mentioned earlier are too busy to be really personable: A little stress and you’d better not cross them.

Under stress, about the most you’ll get out of Cal is a trip outside for a smoke. Even then, though, he takes stories out the door with him so he can be proofreading as he gets his nicotine fix. And if there’s somebody out there to talk to, he might smoke a second cigarette to joke around.

Then he’s right back in front of his computer, under an ironclad deadline, to make the paper something people should be proud to get.

Just for the record, in case you’re one of those people who unfavorably compare the R-C News-Herald to the Virginian-Pilot or the News and Observer. Duh! Those newspapers have hundreds of reporters working locally and rely upon tens of thousands more at other papers linked through Associated Press to report local, state and national news.

They do a good job. I admire both papers for their coverage of the world. How many reporters do you reckon the News-Herald has? How about one, Stephanie Duffey. Yes, there are some local volunteers (for that’s what they really are even if they get a little stipend) like Thadd White, but the reporting for this three-county region is done by two people. And after his day of reporting, then Cal has to work as editor, news editor, sports editor, sports reporter, composing director, layout artist, etc.

For you to unfavorably compare the News-Herald to state or national newspaper is, when you think about, a real compliment.

Don’t forget that the R-C News-Herald is a community newspaper. It is only concerned with this four-county region and is, frankly, the only source of news for the entire area. Sure, some of the television stations come on over when we have a disaster or spectacular murder, but for the day-to-day news that is important to know if you want to know what’s happening around here, the News-Herald is the only place to get it.

I don’t work at the newspaper any more. He’s no longer my boss so I can speak my mind about him. He’s a heckuva man. I’m proud to call him friend and wish him great happiness and, hopefully, more pay and fewer hours with this new position.

But as I close, don’t get the idea that Cal Bryant is perfect. Yeah, I admire his work ethic, creativity, sense of humor, humility, professionalism, ethics, good nature…, but he’s totally wrong-headed when it comes to politics. Gee whiz! I couldn’t believe it when I found out last year that not only was he a Bush supporter, but an enthusiastic Bushie.

Just goes to show you, nobody’s perfect.

Congratulations, Cal. Keep up the excellent work – hopefully with a bigger staff, appropriate pay and benefits, and some time off to bug Deborah!