Local journalists talk about lucking out and rolling snake eyes 

Soiled Sweatshirts

When a reporter is trying to nail a story, it's all about being in the right place at the right time. A little luck, some good investigative journalism, and a trusty Dictaphone are all it takes to make headlines. Sometimes.

Below, a few local media elite give us the rundown on their best and worst experiences in the line of duty.

Hatzel Vela
Nicaraguan-born, Miami-raised, Charleston-based reporter for Live 5 News

Right Place, Right Time: There have been numerous stories where a person can only speak Spanish. The competition is at a disadvantage because I can speak both languages. Back in December, I got an exclusive with the mother of a child who was kidnapped from a post office in North Charleston. Days before the police report was released, I went to her house. The rest of the media knew where she lived. They just couldn't talk to her. So I introduced myself, and even though at that point she wasn't ready to do an interview, she later agreed.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time: It happened back in the day (two years ago, actually) when gas prices were the lead story at least twice a week. We were getting ready to go live for the 11 p.m. news broadcast at the Savannah Highway gas station where they sell Dodge's Chicken. It's a landmark. Laura, my co-worker and photojournalist, was busy turning on switches inside the truck so we could do our live report. As the clock inched closer to 11 p.m., she said I should go check with the gas station workers to see if the lights would be on when we went live. I got my answer and as I made my way back to the truck, I turned a corner and saw her running toward me. What we call a "mast," the metal antenna that rises 20-plus feet in the air, toppled. Thankfully, she saw it coming and was able to duck out of the way. Needless to say, we didn't go live.

Devin Grant
Post & Courier's music reviewer formerly of Preview, now Charleston Scene

Right Place, Right Time: Seven or eight years ago, Soni from Hootie and the Blowfish was promoting a new album that was getting ready to come out. Off the cuff he started complaining about how Atlantic Records was treating them, and he said point blank that they were getting ready to leave the label. Sure enough, they left the label awhile later. The quote came out on Billboard's message board. They called me, and I said the source is credible.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time: I interviewed Tori Amos a few years back. It was all good until I said she had rabid fans. She took real big offense at that. I didn't mean it to be offensive.

Potter
Music director, radio personality on 98X

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Right Place, Right Time: It was great when Kevin Costner was in town because he has a band. He just had some time to kill, so we had the band come to the studio for the Bridge and play and talk. Also, Kevin Bacon did the same thing. Actually, Kevin Costner was kind of a jerk. Kevin Bacon was really like the shyest person I'd ever talked to.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time: I had the lead singer from Flyleaf one time. She came in and she used to be on a bunch of drugs and it just so happened she was in her car listening to me before she came in for the interview and I had just seen a guy in a car obviously on crack. On the air I said, "You know what, this guy was having a good time. Maybe crack isn't so bad." When she came in, she wasn't too happy about that.

Ken Burger
Post & Courier columnist

Right Place, Right Time: The morning after Hugo hit, I was looking for a way to get to the barrier islands to report on the damage. The Ben Sawyer Bridge was knocked out, so I went down to the City Marina looking for a boat. Unfortunately, all the boats were on Lockwood Avenue. The place was totally silent, eerie, until I heard one truck backing a boat trailer into the water. It was a local game warden launching his boat. They had been ordered to Sullivan's Island and Isle of Palms to secure property until the National Guard arrived. I hitched a ride with him and was the first reporter to see the devastation.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time: In 1996, I was covering the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. I was in the park that fateful night, getting some material for a column, but decided to head back to my hotel room to start writing. Shortly after I left, the bomb went off. As a reporter, I wanted to be right there on the scene. Unfortunately, I was already back in my room watching it on TV like everybody else. Timing is everything.

Ryan Nelson
Host of Around the Town with Ryan Nelson, formerly of Lowcountry Live

Right Place, Right Time: I was at the Food + Wine Festival 2009 when Bobby Flay was the headliner, and City Paper's editor Stephanie Barna and I were the only ones waiting for him. He's such a cool guy, so nice signing cookbooks for two hours. We waited and waited and waited in the side area green room. Finally, he came out, and he could have been a jerk, but he was so nice. It ended up the story was a fabulous story, and we were the only television station that got him.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time: I'm a huge fan of books and authors, and there was this author coming into town. She's on the best-seller list, huge! She showed up, and I had heard from my [production assistant] she was treating them poorly. She refused to sit in a folding chair. Then I'm expecting to see someone like a Liz Taylor, and she shows up wearing a soiled sweatshirt and jeans. New York Times best-selling author!


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