When News-Makers Become the News

Monday, June 17, 2024

When the News-Makers Become the News

Oxford newspaper gets embroiled in its own story

What happens when the news-makers become the news? What happens when those who write the stories suddenly turn into the story itself?

Such a quandary is developing in Yoknapatawpha County right now, where Oxford Eagle city reporter Rick Hughes is reportedly being sought for questioning in the shooting death of Monica Drum, the paper's managing editor.

Drum was found dead in her office on Sunday around 3:15 a.m., shortly after security guard Ernie Parrish heard gunshots. He immediately called 911, and law enforcement arrived within minutes.

Sheriff's department officials describe Hughes as a person of interest in the investigation at this time due to his long-standing relationship with Drum. Sources tell the Crime Beat that Drum and Hughes had a vicious argument not long before her death.

Speaking exclusively with the Crime Beat from an undisclosed location, Hughes insists he had nothing to do with Drum's death.

"Even though our relationship was up and down," Hughes said of Drum, "we recently decided to end our romantic connection and remain just good friends."

He declined to specify where he was when Drum was killed, confiding that recent overindulgences sometimes have left him struggling to recall details of his activities while under the influence.

Some co-workers at the newspaper were skeptical because, according to them, Hughes is well-known for not consuming alcohol in a town where drinking seems to be a preoccupation with much of the population, no matter the age.

However, Hughes's close colleagues and friends tell quite a different story. They allege that Hughes and Drum's relationship was punctuated by frequent arguing and, more recently, veiled threats from Hughes. Some were concerned that the relationship had deteriorated so much that either Hughes or Drum would have to leave the paper.

While some co-workers claimed Hughes had said he was beginning to hate Drum and would like to see her gone, Hughes argues that such statements were taken out of context. He says any debates he and Drum had in the office probably pertained to business, not their personal situation, as they often disagreed on major and minor points concerning the paper's coverage of city news.

Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department officials take a different stance on Hughes's statements. An official inside the department says multiple witnesses told investigators that they heard Hughes and Drum arguing loudly in her office on more than one occasion and implied that Drum was not above retaliating professionally for personal grievances, citing Hughes's sudden out-of-town story assignment earlier this month as an example.

The witnesses claim Drum said she wanted Hughes out of her hair for a while and sent him to cover a prisoner escape in northwest Mississippi. Observers noted that Hughes's absence from the newspaper office extended well beyond the conclusion of that story.

For years, the newspaper was considered mediocre and an embarrassment by the very citizens it served. One can only wonder how it managed to become such a respected journal in only three short years under the teamwork of Hughes and Drum when a personal crisis was swirling around it the entire time.

By Kemper Jones at 12:00 PM


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