Hook turns 10: A decade of digging
The tale of the Hook's sudden founding ten years ago has oft been told, so I won't rehash it here. What I will repeat are a few exciting highlights. My personal favorite is the fact that the first issue rolled off the presses and hit the newsstands on February 7, 2002, the same day my youngest child was born.
Up next is the fact that I get to work with the Fab Three: Lisa Provence, Courteney Stuart, and Dave McNair. (They were nice enough to let me in this Fab Four photo with them.) They're the main reason the Hook has won 120 awards from the Virginia Press Association. And they don't just create good-for-you "broccoli" journalism. The Hook reporters are fabulously witty wordsmiths whose creativity matches their pursuit of stories, and they're probably the only print reporters in Charlottesville with name recognition.
Then there's the deluxe fact that you are reading this thing, so bravo to you too!
Last fall, in an editor's note, I couldn't help but notice that although the Hook wandered a little in its early days, this paper has matured into a meaningful contributor to the causes of dialogue, investigation, and justice. And I believe we live up to our slogan: "You can handle the truth."
So thanks for allowing us our decade of digging!
Hawes Spencer, Editor
February 7th, 2002
Our first issue was an odd one. The outer cover showed an exuberant mouth (as our way of rejoicing in this new enterprise). Inside, almost hidden, was a fascinating cover story about a local man who ran drugs– and wrote a book about it. Read it!
February 28th, 2002
We brought you the strange world of Mark Linkous, the then Dillwyn-based musician whose tortured soul brought an end to his earthly existence eight years later. Read it!
March 7th, 2002
In what would become a Hook hallmark, Lisa Provence exposed how work-from-home usually means work-for-nothing. Later, such columns as The Fearless Consumer and The Tough Customer would provide additional scrutiny of business claims. Read it!
March 28th, 2002
An amazing story, this was a hard-edged look at a restaurant that promised to open… but when? (We were also there in 2005 for the actual opening, a decade after the "opening… " sign first went up at the Corner Bodo's.) Read it!
May 16th, 2002
Surprise indeed– when a Republican in the form of Rob Schilling got elected to City Council. While his official tenure lasted just four years, he would continue to entertain and inform the public with a radio show on AM 1070 WINA. Read it!
February 20th, 2003
This story won a statewide prize for reporter Lisa Provence and helped catapult the plight of the parents who held a beer party for their teens into the national spotlight. Read it!
September 16th, 2004
This was a classic, a cerebral look at the pursuit of fame, how it lavished mostly goodness on Dave Matthews and led one of his friends awry. Freelance author Dave McNair subsequently joined the Hook newsroom. Read it!
November 11th, 2004
This story became just a first in a string of Courteney Stuart exposés exploring the judicial cruelties awaiting women raped at UVA. The story touched off a protest– and a wave of official reform. Read it!
July 28th, 2005
We didn't plan on devoting two covers to the 18-stab-wound killing by a crying-in-court UVA student named Andrew Alston of a beloved firefighter named Walker Sisk. But when one of the jurors, in her college alumni mag, penned a 3,000-word treatise about the alleged hardship of jury service, we felt compelled to explore the case again. Read it!
August 11th, 2005
The heat-induced death of a promising cross-country runner and Hook columnist was an incident that rocked the community and left his parents struggling for answers. Years later, the life of Kelly Watt still resonates with an every-November memorial race. Read it!
September 29th, 2005
The springtime announcement that the Rolling Stones would play Charlottesville was greeted in some ears as an April Fool's joke. The only attempt at a joke was the bomb scare that stalled the concert– but not the fun! Read it!
February 16th, 2006
Horror in the hallway indeed. Here was a man convicted of attempting to kill his wife in a Halloween-night plot involving chloroform, disconnected utility wires, and a perilous struggle atop a balcony. Five years later, perpetrator Kurt Kroboth threatens this newspaper with litigation over the coverage. Read it!
May 4th, 2006
After the completion of what has since been renamed the nTelos Wireless Pavilion, Dave McNair asks the burning question: "Has Charlottesville jumped the shark?" Read it!
March 8th, 2007
Courteney Stuart went hunting for a story brought back the exclusive tale of the man whose dream of bagging a 600-pound bear nearly cost him his life. Read it!
June 7th, 2007
This case wouldn't officially become a charged criminal case for four more years, with husband Eric Abshire eventually convicted of murder; however, even back in 2007, Courteney Stuart began asking whether there would ever be "justice for Justine." Read it!
July 5th, 2007
One of the Hook's favorite things is looking back at colorful characters and stories, in this case the strange attraction between the purported-but-disproven czarina calling herself "Anastasia" and Charlottesville's own Jack Manahan. Read it!
September 20th, 2007
The authorities told us they might have intercepted another Columbine. But a pack of Lisa Provence stories found that the most of the so-called plotters didn't know each other and didn't have a bomb. Such revelations helped us win the Virginia Press Association's top honor that year. And the man who oversaw the prosecution of what became reviled as the "smoke-bomb plot" ended up getting turned out of office. Read it!
December 6th, 2007
This story illustrates both the power and the limits of journalism. On the one hand, the public learned immediately that, contrary to police suggestions, there really were witnesses to the police cruiser striking Gerry Mitchell in a crosswalk. Sadly, it took a lawsuit to reveal, mere months before Mitchell's 2011 death, that the officer who hit him in broad daylight had been furiously texting. Read it!
February 28th, 2008
Speaking of the limits of journalism, this story by Lisa Provence touched off several years of revelations on the secret underpinnings of the so-called community water supply plan: that the dam doesn't actually provide more water, that consumption has been trending down, and that the prime backer, the Nature Conservancy, has helped spread millions via a well-meaning but welfare-for-the rich program called conservation tax credits. For about the cost of consultant studies, the doomed Rivanna Reservoir might have dredged and thereby saved. Read it!
April 17th, 2008
One day, when ionization smoke detectors are consigned to the dustbin of history, articles like this one by Courteney Stuart may have been forgotten or held up as unheeded, Cassandra-like warnings. As we found in a test, conducted for another cover story later in 2008, they just don't work at quickly detecting the fires likely to kill and maim you while you sleep. Seriously: Save a life; buy a photoelectric. Read it!
November 13th, 2008
Like Republican Rob Schilling six years earlier, Tom Perriello faced the daunting task of running in a district supposedly safe for the opposition party. But, in a squeaker, hometown Democrat Perriello pulled off an upset over incumbent Congressman Virgil Goode. (Two years later, however, Perriello was unseated by Robert Hurt of Chatham.) Read it!
December 18th, 2008
Taking a page from Time magazine, we inaugurated a tradition of naming a person of the year, in this case Gary O'Connell, the man who helped the Nature Conservancy foist the reservoir plan on the local populace. Like Time, we choose the person whose actions have most greatly shaped the news– and in 2011 the "winner" was Western Bypass-pusher Ken Boyd– not necessarily the person the history books will celebrate. Read it!
October 8th, 2009
Like a story on the 40th anniversary of the Hurricane Camille disaster by Lisa Provence, this was one of those Hook-looks-back tale, in this case the 1959 sole-survivor crash on Buck's Elbow Mountain. This one by editor Hawes Spencer was named the year's best by the Virginia Press Association. Read it!
October 29th, 2009
The concert night disappearance of Morgan Dana Harrington was event that catapulted UVA's John Paul Jones Arena into a realm of publicity it didn't want. But, along the way, her still-unsolved murder brought about a major change to Virginia's DNA databank and made her parents the public face of anguish-backed action that galvanized a nation. Read it!
January 7th, 2010
It's not just digging for stories. Sometimes, we just dig through the snow! Read it!
May 6th, 2010
In the sea of stories of the killing of Yeardley Love, the Hook jumped right in with blanket coverage. Read it!
August 19th, 2010
For most of its decades VQR was a literary journal. But in 2010, after the suicide of its managing editor, Dave McNair's stories of Virginia Quarterly Review helped launch a national debate about whether it was the scene of workplace bullying. Read it!
January 6th, 2011
We still don't know who sent the secret documents over our transom, but the taxpayers might be grateful that they did. This story put a fine point on the case of Charlottesville land-speculator Hunter Craig and Orange assessor Patricia O'Grady-Filer, the latter who improbably claimed that raw land bought in bubble-era somehow doubled in value. The case of Biscuit Run is now roiling the courts. Read it!