THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Monday, January 9, 1995 TAG: 9501090036 SECTION: LOCAL PAGE: B1 EDITION: FINAL TYPE: Column SOURCE: Guy Friddell LENGTH: Medium: 65 lines
Mel Carico, a newsman with The Roanoke Times for 45 years, will be inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame, which thereby will be adding luster to its name.
Nothing stood between Carico and a political story.
His beat was anything touching politics throughout Virginia.
One night, after a county GOP committee finished a meeting, Carico raced to a phone booth on the roadside. When he opened the door, the light in the booth failed to go on.
But the phone worked. So Carico, in the dark, began dictating his story to a reporter who was taking it down in the newsroom 150 miles anyway.
Every so often, to the reporter's surprise, Carico would leave the phone and return a few minutes later to resume dictating.
When the story was done, just short of deadline, the reporter demanded to know why Carico had kept leaving the phone.
Somewhat impatiently, Carico explained he couldn't see his notes in the dark so every time a truck came grinding by on the highway, he had run out to read his notebook in the truck's passing headlights.
Carico hung up the receiver, and, leaving the booth, slammed the door - and the light came on.
He is a tall bean-pole of a man and his voice has such a twang that he sounds as if he is accompanying himself on a guitar.
He started on the switchboard of The Roanoke Times. In time, he had the whole state as his province, covering politics and the Virginia General Assembly in Richmond.
Long before a two-party system emerged elsewhere in the state, Democrats and Republicans fought in the mountainous Southwest. Determined to be impartial, Carico wouldn't vote in an election.
During statewide campaigns he wore a red baseball cap. Cub reporters learned to follow that cap as a beacon. Old hands, arriving late for an event, hustled to the cap for a briefing. Carico became a model for a veteran reporter in Garrett Epps' ``The Shad Treatment,'' a novel about Virginia politics.
Early in his career, younger reporters lugged a Speed Graphic camera. At high school football games, he recalled, ``You'd crawl along the ground, most of the game with that bulky camera trying to get a decent shot.''
One day, before the game, Carico told the quarterback that if he wished to get his picture in the paper to run toward him on the sidelines on the first play.
``Sure enough, on the first play he came my way, and not only the quarterback but everybody else on the team as well was looking directly at the camera and wearing a broad grin. And just before the next play, the quarterback looked up from the huddle and yelled at me: `Did you get it all right?' ''
He covered everything under the moon as well as the sun. When he retired in 1981, he recalled, ``If a college graduate in journalism today were assigned to cover some of the little stories we covered, he'd probably quit. But then they were news.'' ILLUSTRATION: Photo