Ink in my veins

Published 10:17 am Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Editor’s note: Carol Bishop Barker is a Franklin native and a graduate of Franklin High School who spent the early part of her career as a reporter for The Tidewater News. She is now Regional Editor for The Times & Democrat in Orangeburg, SC and frequently writes about her time spent in Franklin. The following is a column she recently wrote for the T&D.

by Carol Bishop Barker

This year marks my 47th year in the newspaper business. It’s a milestone that boggles my mind. I never imagined I’d have a lifelong career in journalism.

My eighth-grade English teacher, Miss Elizabeth Evans, encouraged me to write, which prompted me to get a job at my hometown newspaper in Franklin, The Tidewater News, writing a weekly column my junior year about all the happenings at my high school.

I worked full-time at the paper setting type the summer before my senior year and the summer after I graduated before leaving to attend the Henry W. Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia.

My first job after UGA was back at my hometown paper where I worked for six years as a full-time reporter, covering everything from municipal and circuit courts to city council meetings and human interest stories.

My editor called me “Sob Sister” because I wrote so many tear-jerking feature stories. One was about a reunion between an old man and his beloved dog that had been missing for more than a year, then just turned up one day at the man’s front door. I still have the photo I took of the old man, tears streaming down his face, as he embraced his dog.

I wrote a column, “Looking Out My Back Door,” stealing the title from Creedence Clearwater Revival. The column focused on people’s unusual hobbies and adventures.

One news assignment I’ll never forget was my first murder trial. The defendant was a female member of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang from the Norfolk area. She was one of four eventually convicted of torturing and killing a man and burying his body in rural Southampton County. Our staff photographer accompanied me to the courthouse the first day of the trial and, as he was taking photos of the woman being led into the courthouse, she flipped him off. She glared at us like she wanted to kill us. The paper ran the photo but blurred the bird.

Before getting married and resigning to move to Savannah, Ga., where my ex-husband had gotten a job, I had worked my way up to assistant news editor.

After a few months of being a housewife, I went to work at a weekly paper in Garden City, Ga. owned and operated by a married couple. I enjoyed the work outside of the office but hated being in the office with the owners who constantly bickered with each other. Late in the afternoons, they would start drinking cocktails, still ranting and raving at each other. I quit after just a few months.

When we moved to Fairfax, S.C., I went to work as editor of former Gov. John West’s newspaper in Allendale, The Allendale Citizen, for seven years. Then I helped Carl and Betty Kilgus of Bamberg start a new weekly in Allendale, The Allendale County News Leader, to compete with The Citizen. The late Jerue Babb, who owned The Citizen, eventually purchased the Leader, fired the staff at The Citizen and merged the two papers into The Citizen Leader, hiring me and my staff to run it.

A few years later, the Kilguses hired me as editor of the The Adveritzer-Herald in Bamberg, a position I held for 13 years. I love Carl and Betty and would have worked for them as long as they wanted me, but they eventually sold the paper to a company out of Georgia. I was kept on as editor. But the owner of the new company was no Carl or Betty Kilgus, not by a long shot, and I came over to talk to Editor Lee Harter here at The Times and Democrat, where I’ve worked for the past 17 years.

At age 64, I realize I don’t have many years left in the workforce. I love the newspaper business and believe, even as newspapers undergo a dramatic transformation in this digital age, that people will still be reading them at the breakfast table every morning and relying on them for reliable news and advertising for a long, long, long time to come.

Carol Bishop Barker is Regional Editor for The Times & Dispatch in Orangeburg, S.C. Her email is