It was July 1, 2000, when the Confederate flag was moved from atop the Capitol to the Statehouse grounds. Just over 15 years later, on July 10, 2015, the flag came down permanently, a legislative reaction to the killings of black people at a church in Charleston.
Jeffrey Collins, a staffer in the Columbia bureau and a News Media Guild member, covered both flag stories as well as the shootings June 17 at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Among those killed was the pastor, Sen. Clementa Pinckney.
As he drove to Charleston, Collins says he had no idea where the story would go — would the people in Charleston riot? Would the killer strike again? “This ending is so interesting and so different” from what he had imagined, he said.
And that’s one of the reasons he loves his job with The Associated Press because you never know what news the next day will bring.
His first major AP assignment was covering the moving of the flag with colleague Jim Davenport, who died of cancer several years ago. Knowing that Davenport would have loved covering the flag events at the Statehouse made the days even more emotional, Collins says.
He says Davenport would have patted him on the bag at the end of the day Friday, after the flag was down and said: “You’ve done a great job, Jeffrey. Now file for your overtime and take your two days off.”
And that’s another reason that Collins loves his job. He knows he’ll get his overtime pay and get it quickly because AP staffers are covered by a union contract. “That’s a benefit that plenty of other reporters don’t have,” he said.