Editorial: Everything is copy

“Copy” is the newspaperman’s term of art for the words that come together to make a compelling story. And for the headline “Everything is copy,” I’m indebted to Nora Ephron, the essayist, screenwriter and director (perhaps best known for “Heartburn” and “Sleepless in Seattle”) who passed away recently.

By “Everything is copy,” she simply meant that just about anything that happens to you, no matter how bad (e.g., getting cuckolded, growing old and ugly), can form the subject of thoughtful prose and entertaining, instructive narrative.

It was around this theme that the newspaper’s in-person and heartfelt farewell last week to a promising young writer was constructed. During his brief time as Rappahannock News reporter, Alex Sharp VIII produced both hard-news and feature stories that struck a chord with readers. His energy, enthusiasm and love of the special place that is Rappahannock (where he grew up) were contagious.

Often he would write about crime stories that unfolded in the county courthouse. Sometimes the stories’ subjects would be acquaintances of his. Sometimes the stories involved drugs.

Among his cohorts at Rappahannock County High School, at least one would die prematurely – allegedly due to, at least in part, the influence of illegal drugs. Others found the hoped-for trajectory of their lives disrupted by drugs.

Why is drug use among young people in Rappahannock such a problem? What is the attraction exactly? Is it a problem especially acute in rural areas? And what are the ultimate consequences, not only for the individuals themselves but also for the larger community, indeed the very nation?  

These become the kind of questions that Alex might now uniquely address. And given his talents as a writer, the story he might tell, weaving the abstract into the personal, would touch and inform untold readers.

Who knows, seven months from now, Rappahannock might have a future Pulitzer Prize winner!