Dancing with a memory

I came back to the newspaper business in 2011. For five years, I had been a teacher at Newberry High School. I almost went to Ninety Six, after finishing PACE, but a friend who was the assistant principal at NHS called to ask if I had signed a contract. I hadn’t - I became, instead, a Bulldog instructor.

It was a great five years. I taught my youngest child in English class (all three of my children graduated Newberry High School and went on to successfully earn degrees at colleges in South Carolina). I led the yearbook staff in production of some great annuals, thanks in large part to Jostens. I learned a lot, but I left that job and started looking for another job.

Transitions seem to follow my decade years. I left the newspaper in Newberry a couple months after turning 50. Then, at nearly 60, I was looking to get back into the news business. A lot had happened in those 10 years - until my return to newspapers, I had never posted to a website.

My feeling nostalgic for my return to newspapers, now almost a half decade ago, was spotting an item on the Greenwood Index-Journal website.

Beyond Abuse is sponsoring the second Dancing With the Stars competition for Greenwood County. (Tickets on sale now. For information call Beyond Abuse at 864-227-1623, email gwdstars@beyondabuse.info or visit the event website: wwwgwdstars.com. Various sponsorship levels available for tables of eight people, with individual tickets $75 each.)

Beyond Abuse director Cathy Miller is a friend to Laurens County. The organization she directs provides many abuse-related services to people in Laurens and Newberry counties, and of course Greenwood County.

They could use more volunteers - all my non-profits friends are saying in unison, “Couldn’t we all!”

Dancing With the Stars was my first big assignment upon my return to the newspaper business. That was in Manning. I’d been sending out applications for teaching / newspaper / public information jobs since I left Newberry High School in June, and finally got a bite some time in August from Jason Lesley in Manning.

A Georgetown transplant, Jason was editor/publisher at the weekly in Manning - a town I had never visited - and he wanted to interview me. I went, and he offered me the reporter job. I went again and interviewed with the owner, Barry Moore, who’s the publisher for the Walterboro paper. He didn’t see any good reason I couldn’t work with Jason. I was joining a small newspaper chain that includes in its sphere of influence The Clinton Chronicle. Later, The Chronicle sent Bristow Marchant to work with The Sumter Item, he’s now in Rock Hill, and I came 4 years ago this month to work at The Chronicle. Hard to believe - I just completed my 5th Horizons Teacher of the Year and Citizen of the Year articles, that's the advantage of coming on in February - 5 in 4 years - seems like just yesterday I started here.

In Manning, I didn’t know anybody. They’d had their first Dancing With the Clarendon County Stars the year before, and Jason bought a bunch of tickets for the second gala event. I was to sit at The Manning Times table, but I was also there to work.

Covering this event well, I thought, would start to establish my reputation in Manning as a journalist. Plus, it was important to me - it had been 5 years since I had covered, photographed, written - basically, packaged - a news article for a newspaper.

This night, this place was important to me.

I found a seat for my sizable self at a table right next to the stage. I tried to strike up a conversation with the young woman working the sound system. She wasn’t interested. I had to duck low so the people behind me could see - all the tables were on the flat, no bleachers, so everybody was looking at the slightly elevated stage from the same angle.

I shot some of the best photos ever. It helped that this was a high-energy event. It got over really late on a Saturday. I went home - I packaged my material the next Monday. Jason took one look at it and Hmmm-ed.

Generally, not a good sign - the Editor goes Hmmm. Then, he turned it into the greatest Page 1 and 2-page center spread for the next week’s newspaper. It was the best display of my work I had ever seen.

The inside spread photos were in black and white. It made them even more dramatic. Jason did all the Photoshop and pagination work. He is a master.

Jason works for the Coastal Observer in Pawley’s Island. I will see him March 19 at the SC Press Association award luncheon for weekly newspapers - more on that after the 19th, the results are embargoed.

I likely will see Barry Moore at the same event. I likely will see another of my former bosses, Richard Whiting, during that weekend. Richard is one of the judges for the upcoming and afore-mentioned Dancing With the Greenwood County Stars - its theme: "Guys and Dolls".

The Greenwood event will be April 23 at Piedmont Technical College. Last year’s event was a huge success - Dancing With the Clarendon County Stars is still going on; it, too, is a wonderful, community-enhancement fund-raiser.

But, for me, it will never compare to that first time I covered it. A fun evening - in a new place. The excitement, the trepidation all that entails. The first time I saw my work displayed that way; wow, a moment I will never forget. I don’t even have a copy of that issue of The Manning Times. Good thing, I’d probably take it - what’s known in the trade as a double-truck - to The Gray House and get it framed for hanging in my office. It would be an expense I do not need to pay. 

I have the memory.


(Vic MacDonald is editor of The Clinton Chronicle. Contact him at 833-1900 or editor@clintonchronicle.net.)




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