News-Herald introduces staff

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 30, 2007

AHOSKIE – They’re getting ready now.

With the 2007-2008 prep sports year about to begin, the sports staff of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald are already preparing for the upcoming season.

“We’re excited about the upcoming year of prep and collegiate sports in Bertie, Hertford, Gates and Northampton counties,” Sports Editor Thadd White said. “We’ve had a small break to recharge our batteries and now we’re looking forward to getting back to work.”

With that in mind, White announced his staff of sports reporters that will be working with the News-Herald and Gates County Index this year.

“Thadd is our Sports Editor and the only person who is devoted to sports coverage on a regular basis,” Editor Cal Bryant said. “For that reason, we use a handful of local people who work or are retired to help us provide more thorough coverage.

“With their help, we are able to cover more than would be possible otherwise,” he added.

The veteran of the sports staff is Billy Harrell. He began covering local schools in 1990 and has continued his work with the News-Herald for more than 16 seasons.

After his years of dedicated service, Harrell was promoted to Senior Sports Writer in February of 2005.

“Billy has been the one we count on to basically travel everywhere,” White said. “He is a dedicated member of this group and I appreciate so much his efforts.”

Harrell is a graduate of Ahoskie High School and is the chief writer covering Hertford County High School sports.

Five years ago the News-Herald added another sports writer with experience to the staff when Heather Odom joined the organization.

“Heather had been a sports writer when she was in high school and brought that experience to us,” White said. “She is dedicated and responsible and does as much as possible to help us.”

A graduate of Virginia Tech, Odom is a fulltime Agriculture Agent for Northampton County. Her primary coverage area is Northeast Academy and Northampton County High School n East.

The News-Herald staff was bolstered in the middle of the 2006-07 academic year with the addition of Gene Motley. Motley, a former TV sportscaster in Wilmington, has more than 20 years experience in sports.

“When Gene returned home and joined our staff, he made an immediate impact,” White said. “His connections and knowledge are such that he was quickly a valuable member of our team.”

Motley will be primarily covering Bertie High School and Chowan University for the newspaper.

The newest member of the sports staff is Norm Brinker, a retiree who moved to Ahoskie just over a year ago.

Brinker also brings experience to the staff as he has worked previously with The Daily Reporter in Greenfield, Indiana.

“We brought Norm on board the old-fashioned way, by running a help wanted ad in our newspaper,” White said. “We are looking forward to having him become an integral part of coverage for our local schools.”

Brinker will add to the newspaper’s coverage of Ridgecroft School, Hertford County High School and Gates County High School.

The lone student of the group is Kim Umphlett of Gates County High School. In her second year, Umphlett will be broadening her writing to schools beyond her own. She will also be the author of “Baron Beat” in the Gates County Index.

“Kim has a passion for sports that is contagious,” White said. “She is working hard to learn more about writing and is an asset to our staff.”

The News-Herald and Gates County Index also uses the services of Andre Alfred of 2nd Chance Productions. A local photographer, Alfred began photographing local sporting events in December of 2003.

“Andre is an excellent photographer who has provided some excellent visual images to go with our stories,” White said. “I appreciate his willingness to continue to help us even as he grows his own business.”

Three local analysts are also part of the Roanoke-Chowan Publishing sports team.

Gattis Hodges, the host of “Talkin’ Sports” on WDLZ-FM 98.3 in Murfreesboro, is the Senior Sports Analyst for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald.

“There is no one with more knowledge about local sports than Gattis Hodges,” White said. “He provides our readers with more knowledge about a situation than they may otherwise know. He has been a tremendous help to me personally.”

Also returning for another season as an analyst for the News-Herald is Ron Cooke. The retired Athletic Director and Head Football Coach from Bertie High School offers his knowledge and experience on a variety of topics, but is called on a lot during football season.

“Coach Cooke was my teacher in high school and I am pleased to be able to still work with him even after his retirement from coaching,” White said. “He has a sharp mind and is a valuable asset to our readers.”

The News-Herald has added a third analyst to replace Mike Dail, who returned to the coaching ranks this year.

“When Mike Dail decided to return to coaching, it left a hole as far as independent school football is concerned,” White said. “We knew immediately who could fill that void. With Mike Williams we get not only a football expert, but someone who can provide analysis of basketball, baseball and softball as well.”

Currently a co-editor of, Williams is a recognized expert throughout the independent school community. He has contributed regularly to the News-Herald in recent years.

In addition to the non-staff members who provide information to the readership of the newspaper, the News-Herald and Index sports departments also benefit from the knowledge and writing of three staff members.

Jeff Findley, publisher of both newspapers, is a syndicated NASCAR columnist and is also a sports writer who covers local prep football. He will return for his third season on the sidelines this August.

Editor Cal Bryant spent more than 20 years writing and covering local sports before being named News Editor of this publication in 2000.

He continues to cover prep football and basketball.

The newest addition to the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald staff is Jennipher Dickens. She is a Staff Writer for the Herald and the Index, but began her career as a part-time writer in the sports department. She will cover volleyball, basketball, baseball and softball during the academic year.

“Cal and Thadd have assembled a good sports staff,” Publisher Jeff Findley said. “They have knowledge of the games they cover and the local area. We appreciate all they do as we strive to provide the best coverage possible for our student-athletes.”