If you are going to set the record straight, a 20th anniversary seems as good a time as any to do it.
Those faithful readers who have picked up the Index-Journal on Sunday morning through the last decade or so have, on occasion, been treated to a bit of journalistic jousting between Executive Editor Richard S. Whiting and me.
I’ve taken some “shots” at him in my column, and he’s fired back at me via his column. A year ago he leveled me with a full-on roast, penning a column titled “Chris Trainor, get off my lawn!” It was a clever takedown, and it helped earn Whiting first place honors in Humor Column Writing at the annual South Carolina Press Association awards banquet. It also raised my mother’s blood pressure, and apparently the blood pressure of a few other folks, as, a week later, Richard ran another column in which he repeated, literally 100 times, the following line: “I’m sorry if readers thought I was mean and disrespectful with what I wrote last week and I did not mean to offend you or my pal and fellow journalist, Chris Trainor.”
Of course, Richard’s lengthy roast of me was likely well-earned, as, for more than a decade I’ve occasionally sprinkled various dubious anecdotes about him into my column, including, but not limited to, that he frequently shops in the back room at Lucy’s Love Shop, that he smokes cigars like a chimney, that he has an affinity for rum, that he’s a taskmaster in the newsroom and that he has a bearskin rug in his office that’s sprinkled with blood diamonds.
And so today, let’s get it on the record: None of those things are actually true. Well, he does enjoy an occasional cigar (as do I). But the rest of it is fantasy. I overwhelmingly assume that folks know that. But if you didn’t, now you know. I don’t think he’s ever even seen a blood diamond.
The truth is, Richard and I aren’t “rivals” in any way, shape or form. In reality, he has been one of my most valued and trusted colleagues for more than 15 years. He was one of a handful of people who gave me a shot in newspapers, and for that I’ll be forever grateful.
I bring this up today because, just more than a week ago, Richard marked his 20th anniversary working at the Index-Journal. He’s been in the newspaper industry overall for nearly 40 years. He’s dedicated his professional life to journalism, and if you cut him I believe he would not bleed red blood, but rather black ink.
Since I’ve spent years painting one image of Richard, I should probably give you a more accurate portrait.
I have never known a more ardent defender of the First Amendment, or the public’s right to know what its government is up to. If you’ve read this paper with any regularity whatsoever, you know it wields the Freedom of Information act like a sword. Here’s the thing: That’s not for show. It’s not a stunt. It’s mostly driven by a burning desire to cast light upon information the government doesn’t want you to see. At the Index, Richard drives that. He’s shown, over and over, that he’s willing to push — and even go to court — to protect your right to know.
He’s a loving husband and father, and a doting grandfather. He’s a longtime Presbyterian, and has been a leader within the church. (As a Presbyterian, he’d note I was predestined to write this column.) At the same time, he’s quick with a joke, and yeah, they are often inappropriate. He’s got a laugh that starts in a low rumble and often finishes with a high-pitched crescendo.
Richard’s a music enthusiast who’s always up for a concert or show, and he’s been an ardent supporter of music and the arts in Uptown Greenwood. As Uptown has changed and blossomed during the last decade-plus, Richard has dedicated bountiful editorial space to those efforts, providing coverage and opinion that has boosted and stoked the revitalization.
Before some of you ask: No, he didn’t put me up to this column, in any way. I simply found his recent marking of 20 years at the Index notable, and thought, after so many little “barbs” at each other in our respective columns through the years, you should know how I actually feel.
Here’s to the next 20, Chief.