The Reno Gazette-Journal recently gave four veteran reporters buyouts. We asked them what stories they covered stood out in their minds.
Susan Skroupa (27 years in Nevada journalism): The most fun I ever had was interviewing Johnny Cash in person in about 1995. Rang the doorbell at his suite at the Grand Sierra. … The door opened and a huge man in a white shirt reached down and took my hand and said, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash,” and I almost fainted. … I had asked some people in the newsroom, “What should I ask Johnny Cash?” And Barbara Anderson, who was a reporter here at that time said, “You need to ask him if he shot a man in Reno how he ended up in jail in California?” And I did, and he smiled, and he laughed and he said, “Because I also shot a woman in Santa Barbara.” Didn’t miss a beat.
Bill O’Driscoll (36 years): I got to ride with the Blue Angels at the air races in 1983. Kick in the rear. It was just a lot of fun—way out of my comfort zone, strapped in … something I know I’ll never be able to do again, one of those one-off things in a lifetime, lot of fun. … What I remember, when I wasn’t passing out from the five or six G-forces, it was fun. It was professional all the way, and it was just something that I knew 99 percent of the rest of the world would never be able to do, so had to write them and tell them how it went. It was a great story to write.
Jeff DeLong (26 years): Obviously all the wildfires I’ve covered stand out, because I’ve been at all the big ones—pretty scary moments. When I was up at the Angora fire, when it blew up on the third day, I was definitely afraid for my life at that point. So it was very memorable, something I won’t forget. … It didn’t overtake me, but it looked like it could, so that was when it was time to get out of there.
Ray Hagar (31 years): Well, I guess getting my ass kicked by Billy Martin stands out. … I walked up to him and said, “Hello. My name’s Ray Hagar. … We have an interview scheduled.” And he was really hammered, really drunk, and he said, “Get the F out of here, kid. I’m not talking to you.” … I called the office and said, “What do you want me to do? This guy is really drunk.” And they said, “Well, interview him, anyway. How many times does Billy Martin come to Reno?” … And I went up to him and I asked him again and he said, “Sure, kid.” … I asked him if he could get along, you know, with Reggie Jackson. … He said he could get along with Hirohito, Mussolini and Hitler as long as they played Yankee sports. And then he starts on a tirade against New York sportswriters … and he’s throwing F-bombs out and everything, talking about these guys. … So he says, “I’ve given you a good interview. Give it to me back.” … He grabbed at [the notes], so I put them behind my back. … and he kind of turned away and then he plowed me, smacked me in the face, you know. My glasses went flying. I was totally blown away and the only thing I thought of … I’ve blown this interview! … And he said, “Fighting’s no way to solve anything.” And I said, “Yes, I know!” And then all of a sudden, the guy hits me again. So I go flying over this bar table. … I get up and I’m dizzy. He hit me three times. … My notes were all over. I grabbed as many as I could. [News reports said Hagar suffered three chipped teeth and a gash over his eye. When the grisly photos of Hagar appeared in newspapers, Yankee owner George Steinbrenner threatened to get rid of Martin, so on May 24, 1979, Martin flew to Reno, apologized, and paid Hagar’s medical/dental bills.]