It's always nice to garner the respect of your peers...
Sunday, March 5, 2000
He was hard to miss, and
even harder to forget
This is a tribute to a sometimes
grouchy, always free of pretense, now and then irascible, without exception genuine, candid, authentic, straightforward, earnest
Allow me to tell you about
He's one of those unforgettable
characters we read about in Reader's Digest. And if you pay any attention at all to “bylines,” you would have
seen his name often on the front pages of The Daily Commercial.
Since his departure (defection
to another newspaper) the newsroom is much, much quieter. We no longer hear his trumpeting voice, like that of a bull elephant
on a rampage. Time is beginning to erase what had been a chronic urge to shoot him and mount his shaved head on the wall.
We in the newsroom tolerated
his rough, turbulent, noisy, unruly, lively, loud exuberance for a variety of reasons. Foremost is the inescapable conclusion
that he is an "ace' investigative reporter. Sounds corny in these cynical times, but Jerry is an intrepid journalists. No
mild mannered Clark Kent is he. At an earlier time, he would have been seen out on the front lines with the cops wearing a
fedora with a press card tucked in the band.
He would have found a way
into 'Killer' McGuirk’s hideout for a scoop. He would have been standing nearby taking notes as McGuirk called out,
'You’ll never take me alive, coppers!’
That's the kind of reporter
It was he who exposed the
apparent mismanagement on the part of the state agency charged with the welfare of children, whose plain incompetence resulted
in the needless deaths of some. Once he had penetrated that bureaucratic wall with his unique brand of meticulous scrutiny,
the floodgate of citizens' outrage opened. The phones haven't stopped ringing in the newsroom.
Jerry is burning the candle
at each end – with a blowtorch! In his mid-40s, he's already had one heart attack. But he refuses to slow down. His
concern for the welfare of children has prompted him to start writing a book about kids who are desperately in need of protection.
Paradoxically, his juggernaut
approach to reporting hasn't affected his home life. Working hodgepodge hours (which, by the way, most reporters do) he has
managed to maintain at least a semblance of a normal family life. It was not unusual for him to bring his young son, Joshua,
and daughter, Alicia, to work with him. It was an endearing sight to see how much they adore their father. Maybe it's been
the family's strong, uncompromising Christian faith that has guided them over the rough spots, of which there have been many.
(For some reason, Jerry has never owned a car that runs for very long.)
a democracy, a free and independent press is counted upon to provide the information and opinions that fuel public debate,
expose corruption, illuminate major social issues, and enable an informed citizenry to make participatory decisions. This
unwritten covenant, which is no less binding, is a contract that Jerry ascribes to as reverently as his Bible. That's the
kind of reporter he is.
His desk has been cleared
of its clutter. The picture of his smiling wife, Kristie, which he had prominently displayed, has been removed, to be retaped
up at his new desk. Gone is his 'Dilbert" desk calendar, which he delighted reading every day. With giggles, he'd get up from
his chair and show that day's cartoon to his colleagues, breaking their concentration while they were working on their stories.
A lot of trains of thought were lost that way. Jerry never seemed to notice. Eventually he’d drift back to his chair,
put on his headphones and begin to compose his own stories while listening to Gospel music.
All that remains in the coffee
cup he once borrowed from the managing editor. At the bottom is two inches of goop.
Jerry was a respected member
of the news team. His news stories impacted the community in a significant way, providing the basis for statewide investigations.
He has printer’s ink in his veins, a fire in his belly and a hear of gold, not to mention a voice loud enough to be
heard from here to Orlando.
Jim Moad is an editorial
associate and staff writer for The Daily Commercial. His column appears each Sunday.