A shitty journalism student, but a damn fine journalist. That’s how David liked to introduce himself. It helped break the ice. Sometimes he even told people that’s what his granddad said about him: “Couldn’t make it to class, never made a damn deadline, but he can sniff a story out like nobody’s business.
Granddad was old school. He had been one of the first reporters on the ground when the Sandinistas became a big deal in Nicaragua, had been at Camp David, even won an Emmy for his coverage of the Iran hostage crisis. His dad anchored a local news broadcast after working his way around several beats across southeast markets followed by a small stint for NPR. His Dad had a perfect jawline, even today, so a headhunter convinced Dad that he needed to be back on the air and he landed the Lexington gig.
It was strange going to journalism school in a town where people watched your dad every night, where your grandpa drew crowds for book signings, where your name brought instant recognition, and where your boredom produced a straight line of C-minuses and disappointed comments that sounded like something your parents would say, not your professors.
“Journalism is in your blood, kid. Are you even trying?”
“This won’t get you a job, you know.”
He cared about getting a good story. But the rudimentary assignments that earned you an A? He called BS on that.
Podcasting came along by accident. He’d been trying to write a long form story on a local crime for a class. Gory stuff involving a cheating wife, a killer-for-hire, and a local restaurant chain. He wasn’t quite churning out the sort of prose that the prof would like (“Less Enquirer, More New Yorker“, he kept writing in the margins), and he started thinking about what it would sound like aloud. He already was recording his interviews on a digital recorder, so he decided to hell with the article, stayed up all night writing a script, played around with his computer’s editing tools, and put together three episodes.
Something about it grabbed people and more than 200,000 people downloaded the first three episodes and they begged for more. He put together a crowd source page to help pay for the reporting and production expenses. The money poured in. He got a D in his class, but he found his niche. He even won a regional student journalism award.
“Good instincts,” his granddad said,”Barely graduated, but the little shit sure knows how to sniff out a story.”
The crime angle was so successful that he decided to give it another go. “Appalachian Angel” revolved around a little more obscure story, but it had all the right things going for it–a strange crime, strange circumstances, and a remaining bit of mystery to turn into a great podcast.
He had spent some time in when he was a kid. His Granddad owned a little land there, and it made for a good retreat from the pseudo-city that Lexington tried to pass itself off as. He knew the neighborhoods pretty well. People knew his family, of course. But they didn’t know what he was always doing with his recorder.
He had actually met Eric before. When he was at UK, he had to come out to cover a “News of the Weird” sort of thing. Evidentially, the crew of a plane passing above had decided–perhaps without consultation–to empty the lavatory waste receptacles just as the plane passed over .
Shit literally fell from the sky. He was sent to follow its trail and report back. He interviewed kids who were at an outdoor birthday party when it happened; the mayor, who was out doing his lawn when it happened, and–because he was hoping to get a good quote on plagues or the end of the world–he went to Little Utah. When he got there, Eric–bald and tall and soft like a little baby–was waiting for him, his mouth pinched, brow furrowed.
Thanks to my writing group for giving me some ideas on how to move forward with this story.