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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Special Report Coming Up on the Douglass Website


A year and a half ago, I got a frantic call from one of our Riverview neighbors.  It was the kind of call that sends shivers up and down your spine.

Someone had spray-painted disturbing, racist graffiti on the I-26 overpass at Meadowview in Kingsport.

It was an incredible call.  I-26 at Meadowview?  In Kingsport?  In our hometown?  It can't be.... that's the "Gateway to Kingsport,"where the city is growing.. This is the 21st century.. we all thought, surely we'd outgrown that mess.  It was the crime of the year nobody wanted to talk about, yet talked about it anyway.  The most shocking social crime in all of Kingsport, Tri-Cities and East Tennessee that stretched into the year 2010.

We did the story on the website, and published pictures of the shocking graffiti that were sent to me.  All of a sudden, I started getting calls from all over the place.. the Kingsport Times-News, the Knoxville News-Sentinel, big-city talk radio stations, TV stations, the Associated Press, USA Today, the FBI, the Secret Service... even my own TV station co-workers in Chattanooga looked at the story with amazement (they were even more shocked that I was right in the middle of it).   Everybody wanted to know about the pictures, the story, the situation.. THE HATRED... that produced it. 

Then, I got a call from the Kingsport Police Department.  A detective was pursuing leads in the investigation to find out the culprit.  The arrest of 19-year-old Andy Frye of Kingsport came shortly after.

From the time an arrest was made, I reached out to the accused.  After reading what everybody had written about the case from the police investigation, as a journalist, I felt that there was a side to the story we were not hearing.. the side from Frye himself.

Some people may wonder why I would want to talk to a person accused of a crime that bites at the heart of our society. The ONE crime that will always set race relations back 150 years. Did I have protection when I talked to him? Did the "N" word fly around? Were there dudes in white sheets nearby? Would he shake my hand?

I contacted him and struck up a conversation, but he could not tell me much on the advice of his attorney, because the case was pending.  Was that just an excuse?  Did he really not want to talk to me?   Once the case was settled just a few days ago, I again reached out to Frye, because if there was indeed another side to the story, I would know it.

The result is an interesting interview that will post to the Douglass Website on Wednesday.

The public's right to know is a powerful manifesto, guaranteed to us by the Constitution of the United States of America.  A journalist who does not seek out the other side to any story, no matter how shocking, is not doing his or her job to inform the citizenry of the community.  A reporter with ethical journalist character, will risk whatever it takes, to seek the truth, publish it, and let the public decide.

And they should not have to answer to critics, who do not understand the importance of a journalist's creed.

On Wednesday, an interview with Andy Frye, the accused "racist graffiti writer" on the NEWS AND CURRENT EVENTS page of your Douglass Website.