UPDATED: Editor Cindy Loman has written a nice appreciation of Stan.
One of the best journalists I’ve ever had the honor of working with, Stan Swofford, died last night. Greensboro and North Carolina are poorer today.
I wrote about Stan when he retired from the News & Record, and when he won his fourth Landmark Award. I’m going to let others talk about Stan’s prowess as an investigative reporter and as finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and his post-newspaper career writing books.
I knew of Stan well before I came to the News & Record. I met him when I was a reporter for the Citizen-Times in Asheville and my roommate brought Stan and Brent Hackney, another reporter with the Greensboro Daily News to our apartment after the bars closed at 2 a.m.. I was asleep. They started to continue their drinking, woke me up and I went downstairs and told them to get the hell out so I could go back to sleep. I didn’t know who they were and didn’t care. Until the next day when my roommate told me that was Stan. He had just been named a finalist for the Pulitzer. Of course, I knew who he was.
Seven years later, I’m hired as on at the News & Record in the lowest editing rung there was. Great.
I was a new assistant city state editor working the morning shift for the afternoon paper, and I had been told to get someone to the United Way meeting the next morning. The United Way report-out on how its fund-raising was going was, to be generous, worth about three inches deep inside the paper. The only person I could find who was remotely available was Stan. Stan was always working on a long-term project, and for good reason, he was a freaking Pulitzer finalist! Along with Jim Schlosser and Jerry Bledsoe, he was the grand poobah of the newsroom. Meanwhile, I was a wet-behind-the-ears editor.
I went to his desk. “Stan, could you cover the United Way meeting tomorrow morning?” I asked.
He looked up at me, said he could, and asked me when and where.
The next day, he went to the meeting and filed his story. I saw it in our ancient computer system, but when I went to edit it, it had disappeared. I couldn’t find it anywhere. My deadline was 12:30. At 12:15, as Stan and some other other reporters were preparing to go to lunch, I walked over.
“Stan, I know you filed your story but the computer’s eaten it. I’m sorry but, umm, can you rewrite it and file it again?”
The other reporters started chuckling. Stan didn’t groan or make a face or say anything but “OK. When’s my deadline?”
Then he turned to the others and said, “Where are y’all going? I’ll meet you.”
He made the 12:30 deadline.
One of the reporters came to me afterward and said, “That’s the fastest Stan’s ever written a story.”
To me, that captures Stan as both a journalist and as a person.
Greensboro — hell, North Carolina — will miss you, Stan.