I WAS going to write another column about the stupid election. But then this weekend happened.
Early this past Sunday morning, WTOC anchor/reporter Don Logana died in a head-on collision on Highway 17 in Jasper County, S.C.
It is hard to overstate how devastating this blow is to local journalism and to the community.
I won’t pretend I knew Don well as a friend. And by all accounts he was one of the best friends you could ever hope to have.
But we knew each other and talked often as fellow journalists, and I was always impressed with not only his boundless energy and enthusiasm, but his integrity and sense of ethics — a rapidly diminishing and devalued commodity in this field.
Our readers agree. Earlier this year Don was voted “Best Local TV Anchor” by our readers in the annual Best of Savannah Readers Poll.
The year before, you voted him “Best Local Investigative Reporter.”
Don was an honest broker and a good-faith interviewer who didn’t burn sources. This is probably the number-one piece of advice in maintaining a long and successful journalism career, and he learned it early on.
A big man with a big personality and big heart to match, Don had a smile for everyone and a ready sense of humor.
But he was no rube or shill, or God forbid, a hack. He had the built-in bullshit detector of any good journalist.
While he had the good sense to keep many of his opinions to himself — a lesson many of us could stand to learn, including yours truly! — he had opinions aplenty, and they were founded on facts and clear vision rather than carrying water for any special interest or party.
As many of you will recall, exactly a year ago this week this newspaper was embroiled in a controversy involving a cover illustration that quickly became a viral phenomenon.
It seems so long ago and so distant now, especially given what has transpired in the nation and the world since then. But at the time it was the biggest story in town.
Don of course had a professional obligation to cover the story, and he did. But I will always remember how fairly and dispassionately he reported the story — not shying away from it, not covering for us, but also not looking to spawn a feeding frenzy at our expense either.
As far as sheer energy, no one outhustled Don. His tireless social media posts were a brilliant combination of attention-getting and genuinely balanced and informative.
In fact, the way I learned about another of this weekend’s tragedies was through a Facebook post by Don.
Master Firefighter Michael Curry lost his life in the line of duty responding to a bizarre accident on Saturday, as a ramp to a public dock on River Street collapsed.
I had never met Curry, but by all accounts he was one of Savannah Fire and Emergency Services real shining lights during a time of strife at the upper management level of that beleaguered local first response agency.
Curry leaves behind a young son. There is a GoFundMe page to contribute to the family here.
I heard about the dock collapse and Curry’s death on Facebook, through Don Logana. Less than 24 hours later Logana was gone. It was his last report.
Hopefully the situation that led to the River Street dock collapse will be addressed so this never happens again.
And hopefully South Carolina will move ahead with long-stalled plans to widen the lethal stretch of Highway 17 that has claimed so many lives, including Logana’s.
The Friday before Curry’s and Logana’s passing, a brilliant young man named Brandon Kaufman was in a horrible car wreck.
He faces long and excruciating therapy from a panoply of injuries including a concussion, a collapsed lung, a broken humerus, a shattered ulna and radius and issues with lumbar vertebrae. He was in surgery for most of the day on Saturday.
Kaufman is music director for Savannah Children’s Theatre. His ability to play the piano is key to his job, but threatened by his arm injuries.
There is a GoFundMe page to contribute to his recovery here.
Like Logana and Curry, Kaufman is known as tireless, enthusiastic, friendly, inspiring, and very good at what he does.
WTOC is Savannah’s oldest TV station. They’ve been through a lot before and will no doubt recover in fine form.
But Don Logana will be especially difficult to replace. His youthful energy and thoroughly modern sensibilities were especially important at WTOC.
Michael Curry will be difficult to replace not only for his individual contributions, but because we live in a world where men and women with the true courage and selfless compassion to jump into burning buildings and into cold rushing rivers to save other people is in increasingly short supply.
Brandon Kaufman is an artist who dedicates himself to inspiring the love of music and performance in young people.
The arts and culture are as vital to a healthy society as a free press and first responders. Indeed, arts and culture are probably more important at this point in our history than at any time most of us can remember.
Brandon will be missed in his hopefully temporary absence from the theatre, and we all hope and pray for his quick recovery.
As we gather this Thanksgiving in the wake of the most divisive election in living memory, maybe we can remember to cherish the healthy and happy days that life does bring us, and remember to share time and love together while we can.