He was tall, I’m not tall.
He worked for Bryan County Now and the Savannah Morning News. I work for Bryan County News. His name was Jamie Parker, mine’s Jeff Whitten.
Sometimes, I would tell him that people thought we were Bryan County Now and he would sometimes tell me that he got calls from people who thought he worked for Bryan County News. I suspect I got more calls of that nature than he did, because it seemed everybody and their mother knew Jamie.
In fact if there’s been one constant through my 13 years at this newspaper, he was it.
Now for the harder part.
And as you probably know, either from all the past tense above or from word on the street, Jamie Parker died Monday, and that news makes me so sad.
Not because we hung out socially, because we didn't. In my experience in local journalism reporters and editors don’t have much of a social life to begin with, so the last thing you want to do when you’re off is be reminded you’re only one phone call away from having to go back to work.
That's how I am, anyway.
But I liked Jamie and admired his ability, and envied his connections, all earned from decades of doing good work in this community, and that includes his spending time working for the old Richmond Hill-Bryan County News way back when and long before I ever got here.
For the better part of the past decade or so, we almost inevitably wound up near one another covering government meetings and events big and small and in between. Sometimes we’d shoot the breeze, sometimes we wouldn’t, but it was always good to see him, even when it wasn’t a good situation I saw him at.
Yes, our papers are competitors, and I hope Jamie enjoyed scooping me as much as I enjoyed scooping Jamie, and truth is there were times I got him and times he got me. I never kept count. I don’t think he did either.
Maybe that's because I considered him more colleague than competitor, and we just a couple of aging newspaper editors trying to keep up with an increasingly crowded, confusing and fast-paced world, and finding ourselves with fewer and fewer resources with which to do so.
Once, several years back as Jamie and I waited outside a hastily convened school board executive session that led to the firing of a principal, we killed the time by grumbling about the changes the internet had wrought and how the need for content to fill that unfillable void had begun to redefine our jobs and lives.
Everything, it seemed, was on the verge of becoming a story, even when it really wasn’t.
“It’s going to get to the point they’re going to want us to report when a cat gets run over in the street,” one of us said, and the other agreed.
Fortunately for us, and for cats, it hasn’t gotten to that point, though one thing I’ve learned is one should never, ever say never.
After all, I never thought I’d come in to work Monday and hear that Jamie Parker had died.
But he did.
Jamie Parker was in his 60s, and that's far too young to go. He leaves behind a family and a whole lot of folks who read his work, and respected it, and respected him.
I’m one of them.
So RIP Jamie. Take it easy up there and, if you don't mind, save a few stories for the rest of us.