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How I Ran Along, Saving Giant Fish

After my experience June 30, I was especially interested in "The Quest for the 100-Pound Catfish" (Cover Story, June 28). I woke with the sun that morning to run along the river before work. Due to heavy rains, the swollen James River partially covered the wetlands area where I normally run. My morning run consisted of many U-turns as I tried to find a path the river had not crossed.

Then up ahead I saw something in the water. I thought it was a Canada goose lying on its side. As I got closer, I discovered the goose was a large catfish — about 15 inches long and maybe 5 inches across the widest part of its back. It was lying on its side with its mouth and half of its body under water — its big lips gasping.

I couldn't leave it there, but the James River bank was about 300 feet away. Was it possible? Could I do it?

I had to try. I bent over, made sure my legs were out of the way, and carefully touched the catfish. It immediately began thrashing and twisting from side to side, propelling itself a couple of feet forward in the three inches of water. This valiant effort lasted less than a minute before the catfish was worn out. Then I gently picked it up, held it firmly and carried it through the deepening water to the edge of the riverbank. There I paused, wished it well and tossed it into the river. I realized I had just given a new meaning to the phrase "catch and release."

Feeling I had done my good deed for the day, I continued my run. Then up ahead I saw another blob in the water. Another catfish — the granddaddy, measuring about 2 feet long and 9 inches across the back, weighing about 30 pounds. While I realized I could never get him all the way to the river and still get to work on time, I thought I could get him to deeper water and push him in the right direction, and if he kept going, he would reach the river. I gently touched his back and he thrashed so hard that he propelled himself forward about 6 feet into the 3-inch-deep water before he also was exhausted. Amazingly, I was able to pick him up.

I slogged through the water to the deepest part, lowered him in and pushed him toward the river. I didn't see him again, and the trail of bubbles was heading in the right direction, so I think he probably made it.

As I was running home, I thought, Boy, do I have a story to tell. Then quickly realized — so do the catfish.

Jo Ann Owenby Charlesworth

Weighing the Climate at the Times-Dispatch

I found Greg Weatherford's cover story on the state of the Richmond Times-Dispatch newsroom ("Truth and Consequences," July 12) both alarming and sad.

Perhaps the article will lead to a conversation among the many talented editors and reporters at the T-D about how to collectively work together to make life better for everyone there. As a former T-D intern who credits a fantastic experience at the newspaper as the main reason I was able to launch a career in journalism, I have nothing but the best to say about the paper.

While change is generally a great thing, I hope it doesn't come in the T-D newsroom at the expense of overlooking the opinions of a tremendously gifted staff who know how to deliver important news to Richmond readers.

Thanks for reporting on what sounds like a very tough situation.

Melinda Rogers
Fargo, N.D.

As a scribbler at the late News Leader from 1960 to 1969, I have more than a passing interest in the conduct of the T-D, even though most of my fellow workers are gone to either the retirement home or the graveyard.

I don't know Glenn Proctor, either, but he is spot-on in trying to get the staff of what could be a great paper off its lazy ass and out covering news.

The problem is that newsroom management has been particularly inept. Part of this problem is due to Bill Millsaps, a wonderful guy and a terrific writer, but a terrible news manager. Bill let the newsroom management team go for years and it showed.

The decline in circulation is due partly to failure to cover local and state news, but part of the problem is simply the increasing dependence of many on electronic news sources. There are many sources that can provide national and international news coverage, but none that can provide local news coverage like a daily paper.

Proctor has made admirable steps, particularly in getting some improvement on the cop and public safety beats. But coverage of local government, particularly Henrico, is still very bad. State government coverage has quantity but no quality.

And as for his refusal to talk to you, I don't blame him. Style is a competitor, albeit a feeble one, and you don't give your competition ammunition. As to the paper's staff being muzzled, I can only say I wouldn't pay an employee of mine who was bad-mouthing me to the other guys.

The T-D has a long, long way to go, but I have to give credit to Proctor for having made a start. You should, too.

Robert P. Hilldrup

Your story on the Times-Dispatch was very interesting and too familiar. Found it curious, too, about the gag order imposed on employees, plus I've never known a newspaper to have a "promotion" person to go through. I thought it was the editor's job (pleasure) to talk about and tout their publication.

I was blessed to have worked with an editor/publisher, the late Scott Perry, who was strong enough to give me a kick in the butt when I needed it (not in a bad way) and to help me become a better reporter with wisdom and patience, plus just a wonderful sense of humor and honor for the profession and life in general. We were a twice-weekly in Eastern Kentucky, and the paper was established in 1927, I believe, by a local family, and it had a rich history.

We continued after it was sold to a smaller chain (with wonderful owners who never micromanaged us; they didn't have to), with a few changes, and it continued to be one of the most respected papers in the state.

That all came to a halt when the paper was sold to a bigger corporation, Community News Holdings Inc., which promptly sent in the president's brother to destroy it. That was in '97, but reading about the fear of the T-D reporters and how they could not talk about what was going on kind of brought back the feelings during that time.

The sad thing about it all and at the T-D is that the effect it has on the quality of journalism and the disservice it does to those who really believe in it and the readers who trust their newspaper to tell the truth and focus on what's important.

I think that's a big problem with a lot of the "media" these days. The issue needs all the attention it can get, and I want to say thank you for doing your part. Like you said, "What are they afraid of?" Why not talk to you?

Being a reporter in limbo is not an enviable position, and the stress and distress it causes takes quite a toll. There are great reporters out there who can't do their jobs because of situations like this, and that's wrong to them and the people we serve.

Susan Allen
The Big Sandy News
Prestonsburg, Ky.

CorrectionWe incorrectly cited the artist of the koi paintings in a review of Petersburg restaurant Wabi-Sabi ("Beauty Beheld," Food & Drink, July 5). It is Bobby Lynch.

We misstated the street number of the Starbucks coming to 5802 Grove Ave. ("Lightning Strikes Libbie Retailers," Street Talk, July 12). Style regrets the errors.

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