Up & Coming Weekly

September 01, 2020

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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Page 12 of 24

12 UCW SEPTEMBER 2-8, 2020 WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM COVER STORY Jeff Thompson, Fayetteville's news man by MARGARET DICKSON Jeff ompson was my first boss. I was a teenager, thrilled beyond measure to be in a real newsroom and nurturing journalism dreams in my young heart. Maybe I had a small salary, but since I was a blank sheet when it came to reporting, I was essentially an intern. Jeff was almost certainly less enthusiastic about my summer job than I was since he did not hire me. I landed in his newsroom because I was the first child of the ownership of Cape Fear Broad- casting Company, where we worked, and there were six more siblings/cousins in line behind me for station jobs when they got a little older. But Jeff was game, though he cut me no slack, at least in my young and inexperienced mind. Jeff ompson came to Fayetteville in the mid- 1960s from upstate New York the same way thou- sands of others have come — courtesy of the U.S. Army. Once here, he worked part-time spinning records and broadcasting live from a glass tower above a local drive-in restaurant, the Tower in the Sky. Although he did not know it at the time, Jeff had found his home — in Fayetteville, in radio and at Cape Fear Broadcasting. A glib and good-looking DJ, Jeff became what was later known as a chick magnet, and in short order, he met and married a local girl, Jean Musselwhite, who was blessed with a large extended family. He and Jean started their own family, eventually in- cluding Jay, Phil and Angie. ey left Fayetteville only once for a TV stint in Charlotte, but Jeff and Jean were homesick, so back they came. e same cannot be said for Jeff 's tenure at Cape Fear Broadcasting, which he left several times over the decades for competing radio stations and at least once to sell cars. Eventually, Jeff settled in, as did I, my family members and a handful of other treasured friends, to make our own little Cape Fear Broadcast- ing family, both related and created. Over time, we laughed together, cried together, celebrated together, got mad at each other, watched other people come and go and spent the better part of our working lives together. Jeff 's primary responsibilities revolved around news gathering and reporting, and he was — and remains — a force to be reckoned with if you find yourself standing between him and a story. Paul Michels, another young soldier who found his home in Fayetteville and at Cape Fear Broad- casting, had this to say about Jeff 's devotion to local news. "Jeff lived and breathed radio news. He had police scanners going in his office, his car and his home (not sure how Jean tolerated that). Sometimes on weekend nights, Jeff would ride around with police officers while they were patrol- ling the city. Jeff 's dedication to covering the news was never more apparent than the night of Aug. 6, 1993. at was the Luigi's Restaurant shooting, when Fort Bragg solider Kenneth French killed four people and wounded six others. Because Jeff had that police scanner blaring away in his home, he knew instantly that something major was go- ing on. He was at the restaurant within minutes, getting reactions and interviews from people who were there. I can imagine he was moving around the crime scene, getting his audio before the yel- low tape was even up. He had enough content to put together a long-form feature about the crime on both of our stations the following morning. e news gathering that night was the epitome of a lo- cal radio newsperson doing his job." Hannah Dawson Gage, who eventually ran Cape Fear Broadcasting's operations in Wilmington, worked with Jeff and me in news for several years. She, too, has great respect for Jeff 's news abilities. "Jeff was an earlier version of the information highway. He knew everybody worth knowing and everything about them. His range of friends was vast, stretching from elected officials to court re- porters to highway patrolmen and sheriff 's depu- ties to coroners and the guys running the 7-11 on Ramsey Street. He not only knew those people, he knew their individual stories. At some point, they had passed through one of this stories and had later become a source or a friend. "Jeff understood the tapestry of people that wove Fayetteville together; he had a deep under- standing of all the moving parts and how things worked. I learned things from Jeff that they didn't teach at UNC's Journalism school. "As a cub reporter, Jeff was a wonderful teacher and mentor because he was absolutely fearless in his pursuit of a good story. He encouraged intrep- idness. He was naturally curious about everything. He had cataloged stories about every important person and elected officials he'd ever met and, from time to time, would share those stories in the newsroom at the end of the week, the kind of sto- ries that would ruin lives and could never be aired … but were enormously entertaining. He had dirt on everybody, but he never used it.

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