News from the Tennessee Valley Columnists


Secret agenda backfires, bites editor on backside

Critics sometimes accuse the media of ignoring a good story and, thereby, having a secret agenda.

The truth is, sometimes we don't know a good story when it comes up and bites us in the behind.

This has happened to me on more than one occasion. The most notable was the case of Charlie Wilhelm.

Charlie walked into the newspaper one day in the late 1990s with this wild tale about people being after him. He claimed that he was a former criminal who moved to Decatur to get away from the bad guys. He may have mentioned the FBI. He wanted me to help him get a job.

Through the years, I met several people who said high-level villains were chasing them.

Some of them confided that the FBI was after them. Some said it was the CIA. Some said aliens.

I try to be courteous to folks when aliens and secret government agents are tailing them. My hidden agenda, however, is to get them out the door as quickly as possible.

Sorry, Charlie.

By the time the book was published, it was obvious I had missed a great story.

Charlie collaborated with a reporter from Maryland to write "Wised Up," a book that tells of his life of crime and efforts to turn in a new direction.

Charlie, indeed, hid out in Decatur with his family while he worked with the FBI to clean up crime in Baltimore. After life as a loan shark, drug dealer, fence for stolen goods, money laundryman and a numbers bookie, he became an informant.

DAILY reporter Abby Foster recently wrote an article about his ordeal and his book.

"Decatur, Alabama, is the best move I could have made," Charlie told Abby. "If I could have gotten a job there, I'd have stayed."

Charlie found people in the South warm and receptive. He said they accepted him before they judged him.

Of course there was one glaring exception to this Southern hospitality.

Charlie told Abby that he approached me several years ago while living in Decatur and I wouldn't help.

Abby enjoyed informing me that I had sent a great story straight out the door.

I'm embarrassed to admit I don't remember him.

Apparently, I thought Charlie was just another guy having problems with aliens.

On the Net: Charlie Wilhelm's story,

Scott Morris Scott Morris
DAILY City Editor

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