Up Front: March 2007


I approached this month’s cover story with some trepidation. The assignment went to freelancer Jerry Shinn, a former editorial writer and associate editor of The Charlotte Observer. Those were not the credentials that concerned me. Like a great many of the state’s journalists — and all its sports-writers, if you listen to State fans — Jerry went to Carolina. Class of 1959, he was there when the Tar Heels went 32-0 to win the national championship in 1957. “I saw all the home games that year, in old Woolen Gym,” he recalls. “You just had to wander there about tipoff time and show somebody your student ID to get in.”

I wasn’t worried about Jerry’s objectivity — though he did confess, “I guess I’ll finally have to learn to spell that guy’s name.” But I knew to keep an eye on Arthur Murray (UNC, 1979), the lead editor on the piece. Reared in the Old Dominion, he had chosen Chapel Hill over Charlottesville. Converts become zealots, and his fervor for alma mater is matched only by the ferocity he feels for her arch foe.

Still, Arthur is a product of the nation’s finest journalism school, and what the professionalism pounded into him there might fail to temper, I (UNC, 1971) was confident I could. After all, I grew up a Duke fan. Somehow my old man (School of Hard Knocks, lifetime learning) always had season tickets at Cameron, and I finished my freshman year before the blue that ran in my veins faded to a lighter shade. A guy in my dorm speculated that it took that long to rub up against enough Dookies to realize I despised that place.

But it’s an emotion I’ve never been able to muster. In fact, I bought all three of my grandkids Duke basketball uniforms last fall. I wanted to run a photo of them suited up with this column, but my son, the publisher, put his foot down. “That would be cruel,” he said. “They’re kids — they don’t know what they’re doing.” At least he let his boys, 4 and 1, keep the outfits, which is more than he (NCSU, 1992) is wont to do when I give them Tar Heels gear.

But, I’ll admit, price rather than prior passion triggered the purchase. The togs had been marked down four times, to less than $4 a set, when I spotted them at a J.C. Penney in Durham. And that was before the Blue Devils’ season had even begun.

Mark Kemp, who did the story on Ramseur Records, is the only person to write for this magazine who was ever up for a Grammy. A former music editor of Rolling Stone and executive with MTV Networks, he was nominated in 1997 for his liner notes to Farewells & Fantasies, a four-CD box set of songs by ’60s protest singer Phil Ochs. An Asheboro native, Mark came back to North Carolina five years ago as entertainment editor of The Charlotte Observer and to finish Dixie Lullaby: A Story of Music, Race & New Beginnings in a New South, his book about Southern rock, which was published in 2004.

Mark didn’t go to Carolina. He graduated from ECU, which might explain why his journalism career took him to L.A. and New York rather than keeping him close to home to make sure Duke and State never get the kind of ink they think they’re due.