Looking for a Story: “There’s drama. And pathos. Grief. It’s an incredible profession.”

From a story, by Jessica Banov, on journalist A.C. Snow in the Raleigh News&Observer:

A.C. Snow, like many journalists, finds it a little unnatural to be on the other side of an interview. He has shared his life’s stories for decades in The Raleigh Times and The News & Observer. . . .

Though 95 years old, having written thousands of articles and columns, Snow has a remarkable memory for his career highlights.

“Well, I’ve come to think that every person I meet has a story inside,” said Snow, who will turn 96 in July. “Newspaper reporters are always looking for a story. And as you know, we all know, it may not be ‘Gone With the Wind,’ but there’s drama. And pathos. Grief. It’s an incredible profession.”. . .

While Snow often touched on the lighter side of life, he didn’t avoid tough issues. On June 14, 2015, he wrote a column about a time he was assigned to cover the execution of a man convicted of attempted rape. Stepping outside Central Prison after the prisoner had died was like an awakening.

Today, he said the experience had a profound impact on him, and the stories he wrote about it were some of the most painful. It wasn’t just the execution itself, though that gave him nightmares. He said it was the callous comments from other people observing the execution with him.

“They were taking bets on how long it would take him to die,” Snow recalls. . . .

Because before email and before social media, readers had no qualms about showing up at Snow’s office, calling him at home or telling him to his face what they really thought about what he wrote. Snow credits his patient and understanding wife with helping him deal with all of it.

But Snow recounts the harshest of insults with laughter. There’s the doctor who ran into him on the street and told him he enjoyed his column.

“He went to sleep reading one every night,” Snow said.

There’s the lumberjack who sent him a postcard from Oregon. Seems the lumberjack’s mother sent him one of the books of Snow’s columns.

“I read one in the bathroom every morning,” the man told Snow.

“One of my most treasured compliments,” Snow said.

Snow used his charm to defuse any complaints. When Snow was editor, a reader called him at home one night to complain about how a reporter quoted his mother.

“He told me he was coming out to my house, and he was going to beat my posterior,” Snow said. “But he didn’t use ‘posterior.’ I told him he’d have to hurry because I was just sitting down to dinner. He started laughing.”

A woman came to his office, plopped herself down in a chair and asked Snow to do something about the high price of a sausage biscuit from a shop around the corner.

Technology has changed since A.C. Snow first started writing, and some journalists have become more aggressive. He has traded his typewriter for a laptop, which he reads by the fireplace many mornings in his North Raleigh home. He keeps open the possibility of writing again if he feels “the urge to get something off my chest,” but acknowledges it’s “high time that I stopped.”

“I mean, 70 years!”

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