Like a bad penny, Guy Lucas turns up again

One-time News-Topic reporter returns as editor
Jan. 26, 2013 @ 11:35 PM

I’m back.

Almost exactly 25 years after leaving the News-Topic, my first reporting job, I now occupy the very desk used by my first editor, Lee Barnes. In fact, while cleaning out drawers, I came across the same orientation papers used 25 years ago, along with features-section guidelines mentioning a woman I worked here with. In the conference room hang some of the classic black-and-white photos shot by Spencer Ainsley, who was the staff photographer at the time.

And I notice that local residents can still tell at a glance that I’m not from around here.

Other things obviously have changed. The local economy is not what it was in 1988. The Hardee’s where I liked to stop for breakfast while doing my early morning rounds to the police and sheriff’s departments now is a Latino market. Downtown actually looks more lively than I remembered it, and it includes not only a wine bar – a critter I don’t think existed even in Chapel Hill back then – but a winery. I think they made wine down in Duplin County in the ‘80s, but I would have bet heavy against ever seeing any wineries up this way.

And like many businesses, the News-Topic has been battered by the economy. The staff is about half the size it was when I first worked here. Each edition is thinner.

Like every editor with any kind of grip on reality, I know the smaller staff means we can’t cover as much ground as we would like. But at the same time, we have technology now that gives us larger ears than ever for hearing what you say, and a larger megaphone than ever for amplifying the conversation in the community.

If you are interested in local news but haven’t yet visited and “liked” our page on Facebook, please give it a visit. We intend to make better use of it for letting all of you know what we are working on, asking what you are interested in finding out, and talking about whatever comes up.

We have a Twitter account, @newstopic, but until this past week it had been dormant since late 2011. We’re going to get it going again, and maybe get a few more going, for those who want quick bulletins on the go and occasionally live coverage of important events.

Our website, newstopic.net, has been a mess of late. We are in the early stages of cleaning it up, streamlining its structure and training up the staff to run it the way its makers intended. With any luck, in just a couple of months you’ll consider it an essential stop for local news – which is a good thing, because later this year access to it will be restricted to only those who are willing to pay for access, and if it still stinks we’ll never get anyone to pay for it.

But no matter the platform, the heart of what we do is tell stories. If I accomplish nothing else in my time here, the News-Topic better become a reliable source not only of local news but local characters, scenes, vignettes, tragedy and comedy – life, told daily (except Mondays). I entered this business to write – not just report, which is transcription, but write, which is expression and emotion, the figurative lightning flashing across the sky of your imagination.

The peaks of the Appalachians tower in the near distance above Lenoir. They’re beautiful and alluring, and sometimes dark and ominous. You want to go there, climb them, stand atop them and see the world. That’s pretty close to what I want the pages of the News-Topic to make you feel.

Curse me for a fool, but I think we can do it.