The changing fortunes of farming, hydroponics & the Virginia Senate (Roanoke Business)

The September 2015 issue of Roanoke Business magazine features three of my stories:

The changing fortunes of farming, the cover feature, which examines southwest Virginia ag in 2015 through the five-year USDA Census of Agriculture and interviews with key players.

“About as high-tech as it gets”: Red Sun Farms may be agriculture’s future under glass, a sidebar that looks at the hydroponic tomato grower’s 18-acre — and growing — operation in Pulaski County.

Power in balance: The region’s races could determine which party controls the Virginia Senate, a round-up of issues and candidates in the three-way races in the 19th and 21st districts, which encompass most of the Roanoke and New River valleys.

Inside the Burger Restaurant Where Hank Williams Uttered His Last Words (Munchies/Vice)

They placed Hank Williams in a wheelchair and hauled him from the Knoxville hotel to his powder-blue Cadillac convertible, where his driver, a college freshman named Charles Carr, waited.

Loaded on booze, morphine, chloral hydrate, and vitamin B12, Williams crawled into the back seat, wrapped a blanket around himself, and laid down. Tasked with ferrying Williams to a New Year’s Day gig in Dayton, Ohio, Carr drove out of Knoxville, Tennessee, and into legend.

Near midnight, Carr stopped in downtown Bristol, Virginia, to get gas and look for a relief driver. He went to a cab stand and noticed a diner, the Burger Bar, next door. Carr asked Williams if he wanted anything to eat. Williams declined, saying he just wanted to sleep.

Read more about the murky stories surrounding Williams’ last ride and the restaurant that claims to be the site of his last words in my story for Munchies, Vice’s food site.

The loss of two Roanoke journalists in a senseless shooting

Roanoke media is incredibly close-knit. For all the competition, reporters hold friendships across outlets. That friendliness is an outgrowth of long days spent waiting on politicians at events, taking turns asking questions of law enforcement officers in news conferences, and sharing space while covering the best and worst in human behavior.

I left the Roanoke Times before Alison Parker or Adam Ward came to work for WDBJ7, but I had worked with their counterparts in the broadcast field, some of whom were their coworkers at the time of last week’s shootings at Bridgewater Plaza.

I was called in by the Washington Post to help report the story, which put me in the odd position of working alongside old friends and colleagues, who were covering the deaths of two of their own, while I was representing an outside publication.

Both Parker and Ward had reported on the local roller derby leagues with whom I had such close ties. Parker reported on the Star City Roller Girls, donning skates, pads and a derby name, while Ward had shot footage of the NRV Roller Girls for a seperate story.

After what felt like a long day talking on the phone to those who remembered Parker and Ward; speaking to Sherman Lea Jr., who briefly was misidentified on social media as the shooter; and covering a news conference at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office in Westlake, my name appeared as a contributor to a few different Washington Post stories covering different aspects of the tragedy and its aftermath.

The stories:
Two Roanoke journalists killed on live television by angry former colleague
Vester Lee Flanagan was ‘a man with a lot of anger,’ station manager says
Man who shot Va. TV journalists had troubled tenure at station, records show