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Without another job, Sluder simply cleaned out his locker one night, packed his equipment, and wrote his letter of resignation. "I all but heard a voice," he recalls. "It said, 'It's time to go. This is your last night here.'" He now is the director of photography for the national weekly Sports Business Journal magazine, based in Charlotte.
Freelance writer Paige Williams, now living in Atlanta, says she learned everything she knows about writing during her years at the Observer, from 1989 to 1999. She started in the Statesville bureau, covering Iredell County news, then moved downtown to become a general assignment, features and projects reporter.
She says that although she missed the Observer's "heyday," she had great respect for the journalists with whom she worked. "There were fabulous people there. . .smart, funny, wildly talented writers."
Some of her most challenging investigations ("we didn't call them 'exposes,'" she says) included series about the state of nursing homes and foster care. Another memorable piece was a report from Montana, where she investigated the claims of Charles Kuralt's longtime female companion during the settlement of his estate.
She hasn't been back to the newsroom since she left, saying she doesn't recall her latter days at the paper fondly. "It became more corporate in nature, moving away from journalism and toward the bottom line. The publisher just didn't seem to get it -- he didn't seem to get what we did and why we did it. . .I'd been there 10 years, and it was just time (for me) to go."
For one year, Williams taught journalism as a visiting professor at her alma mater, Ole Miss, but found that she missed writing. Recently, she has contributed stories to Playboy, The New York Times Magazine, Men's Journal and Reader's Digest. A Nieman Fellow (class of 1997), Williams is a member of the Committee of Concerned Journalists.
One Last Note By the way, we did try to reach reclusive bestselling novelist Patricia Cornwell, to talk to her about her days in Charlotte. We went through her agent, who sent us a concise e-mail reply: "I'm sorry Ms. Cornwell is writing her new book about Jack the Ripper." We're hopeful the agent meant she was sorry that Cornwell couldn't be bothered, not that she's sorry that Cornwell is writing a new book about Jack the Ripper. *