If newspapers do go under one day, the thing I’ll miss most is working on a team. Of course you can do good stories alone, as a freelancer. But a newsroom means teamwork, and it means that electric crackle when everybody’s working on the big story, and most of all it means working with unforgettable characters. There could be lots of great characters at accounting firms, I don’t know, but I doubt most places have as many as newspapers. One of the greatest in the Charlotte Observer’s history died this morning. David Poole was 50.
Here is an incomplete list of the things Poole loved: UNC basketball, the Atlanta Braves, creative cursing, R.O.’s Barbecue in Gastonia, politics, old race-car drivers, the newspaper business, his grandbaby Eli, two cars side-by-side in the last turn at Daytona, and most of all, talking.
Here is a list of things Poole was not so fond of: the NBA, dumb NASCAR rules, stupid people in general, the occasional editor, being on the road six days a week, re-engineering and re-designing and all the things we tried to make the newspaper better instead of just doing better stories.
Poole loved to argue. LOVED it. All you had to do was throw out a word — “Earnhardt.” “Bush.” “Dean.” — and he’d be off. Lord help you if you ended up on the other side. He was smart and quick and forceful and pretty soon you’d end up in a tidy little pile of rhetorical dust. He would cut you a look that said, surely you didn’t think you would win an argument with ME. And then he would get tickled about the whole thing and you’d be friends again, not that you ever weren’t.
Sometimes he would get legitimately furious, and at those times it was best to give him about 10 feet of space in every direction. But from my experience it was mostly bluster and show, wrapped around a good heart.
I follow NASCAR, not enough to call myself a fan but enough to know what’s going on, and there’s no question that he was the best NASCAR reporter on the scene — he learned from the great Tom Higgins, the best there ever was. The thing about Poole is, if we had asked him to cover city hall or real estate or theater, he would’ve been the best at those, too. He was a good guy, a devoted family man, but most of all to me he was a great teammate. There’s no way to replace him.