Daily Archives: March 1, 2011

An awkward moment

My illustrious career as a TV reporter has been chock-full of awkward moments. Here’s one you may appreciate. It centers on a question posed to me by a state trooper in McRae, Georgia some years ago.

McRae is a town best known for its delightful reproduction of the Statue of Liberty. A conscientious trooper with the Georgia State Patrol pulled my vehicle over after claiming that it had exceeded the speed limit.

He began to question me. What are you doing here in McRae? he asked, as if it was any of his business.

I explained that I was driving my children to southeast Georgia to visit Cumberland Island. Sir.

What do you do for a living? he asked.

I hesitated. Some people hold lifelong grudges against the news media. If this guy was one of them, he could throw me into jail and put my children into DFCS custody.

I’m a TV reporter in Atlanta, sir. I started to squirm.

His eyebrows shot up.  And he asked a question that’s pretty impossible to answer:  Oh yeah? What kind of reporter are you?

Of course the question made no sense. What he wanted to know was:

Are you the kind of reporter who noses around into stuff they shouldn’t?  Or are you the kind of reporter who makes the police look bad?

The honest answer was yes, I occasionally nose around into stuff that some people — perhaps even police officers — would prefer stayed out of the public eye. And yes, when police officers do things they shouldn’t, it’s absolutely one of the type of stories I would tell in a heartbeat. So that’s what kind of reporter I am.  Most of us are like that.

But I didn’t give him an honest answer. Instead, I said “huh?”

Then the awkward moment shifted back to our conscientious state trooper.

You’ve got some fine lookin’ young uns, he said, viewing my two kids strapped into the car. You’re probably one of the good reporters.

I sure am, sir, I answered. He wrote me a warning instead of a speeding ticket.   My well-timed “huh?” kept me out of trouble.

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…with thanks to WXIA photog Richard Crabbe for lending his eye and re-enactment skills to this piece.