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Viewpoint: Enefriend, Frenemie, or Friend?

By Dennis Edwards
Editorial Page Columnist
New Journal and Guide

Which is better a “Frenemie”(a friend who’s really an enemy) or an “Enefriend”? (a friend who just acts like an enemy)? It’s hard to tell sometimes since friends should oppose us occasionally for our own good.

Ironically, enemies often have the best potential to become friends. Both have one thing in common. They care enough to like or dislike us. I’m not sure we realize how much of a certain kind of affection goes into being one or the other. Unfortunately, hatred is most often the misguided or mismanaged side of love.

Looking back over the years we often come to see how those we thought were enemies were actually friends, even mentors. At the time we were probably too young to know. I’m sure at least one relationship in all of our lives falls into that category.

Mine involved the news executive who promoted me from photographer to reporter/photographer, reporter and later the first black news anchor at the South’s First Television Station. He was and probably still is a very good news man. Old school, story and fact oriented. The first TV Journalist I ever brushed shoulders with who always knew the right questions to ask and what to do with the answers. He more than anyone else laid the journalistic foundation of my life.

Like all of us he too struggled with the changing racial world around him. When brought in to run our newsroom he wasn’t quite prepared for the racial and cultural differences between Richmond and Norfolk. The two are actually wholly other worlds within the same state.

Yet he saw something I didn’t see in myself. He pushed and led me toward the path of Investigative Journalism. Even patiently taught me to bring skepticism, not ambition, to stories as well as sources and humanity to the hardest stories life produced.

Once, after anchoring a newscast, he sat me down to say “anchors come and go. But a good reporter can always find a job”. The one on one lessons about how to do good journalism transcended racial differences and perceptions. It was through the work that we rose above attitudes peculiar to the South Eastern Virginia of our childhoods.

These were heady and hostile days. After growing up in Suffolk, the first time I’d ever been called the N word (by someone who didn’t look like me) was during a news photography internship at a competing TV station. There would be co-workers intent on sabotage, managers dedicated to the “hire to fire” philosophy of keeping affirmative action out of their newsrooms. But I can’t say he dealt with me that way. Others spoke of a different experience. Yet in hind sight I’ve come to believe the in-artful comments and criticisms were actually more work driven than racial.

In what had to be a display of confidence, he offered me the 7 p.m. Anchor Chair while I was Noon and Morning Anchor. I’ll never forget the puzzled look on his face when I turned it down.

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At the time I’d been called to Pastor what would become Richmond’s Garland Avenue Baptist Church. Bible Study was at 7:30 p.m. each Wednesday and there were church related meetings during the week. In the moment they appeared more important. To this day I still question the wisdom of that decision. But I never question the honor of the offer.

It was a strange time in a life caught between mirror different worlds. At 24 years old I did what I thought my calling required. Didn’t consider until later how callings are often multifaceted. How The Lord uses us across multiple platforms and for varied purposes in secular and sacred worlds. Actually, those categories don’t really apply to God.

Eventually a balance was struck in larger markets. But I never forgot the man who doesn’t look like me, the man some might call an enemy, frenemie or enefriend.

With the perspective only time produces I’ve come to see him as the friend I didn’t know I had. The friend to whom I need to say thank you so very much.

Dennis Edwards is an Emmy Award Winning Investigative Television Journalist who’s worked in Detroit, Baltimore, St. Louis, Richmond and as a Freelance Correspondent for CNN. He’s a graduate of Virginia Union University and its Samuel Dewitt Proctor School of Theology.

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