When Richie Tipton writes a song, the finished product is one that is true to the inner voice that permeates from deep within his crawl. In that respect, he is a soulful truth seeker. His quest for the truth also lured him into a career in journalism. While the career was short-lived, it proved to be just as impactful as one of his stage performances.
In 2007, Tipton was hired by a small upstart newspaper in rural Lincoln County, West Virginia. At first, the job seemed straightforward enough. How exciting could covering government in a county with only 20,000 people get anyway?
The answer to that question turned out to be quite surprising. Not only did Tipton become known in the community as a seeker of the truth, he was at the forefront of an investigative journalism project whose goal was to dismantle a political regime who had been operating outside of the law for decades.
The newspaper, The Lincoln Standard, was the pet project of a political activist whose pockets were as deep as his determination. He started the newspaper to be an alternative to the 100-year-old newspaper in town that kowtowed to those in political power. The newspaper launched soon after two long-time politicians in county government were sentenced to federal prison for vote-buying. With Tipton as its soldier in the trenches, the newspaper would prove this was only the tip of the iceberg.
The fearlessness Tipton often shows on stage proved invaluable during his truth-seeking efforts as a Lincoln Standard reporter. As his stories reported more questionable actions by county government officials, his frequent face-to-face encounters with those officials would sometimes get tense.
He had heated conversations with the county sheriff, county commissioners, courthouse staff, and the prosecuting attorney, but those conversations never deterred him from continuing to dig for the truth.
His work exposed improper handling of grant money, illegal campaigning, fraud of the early voting system, and other corrupt political dealings in the county. His work for The Lincoln Standard earned him an award from the West Virginia Press Association for investigative reporting.
The newspaper closed its doors in 2009 when the owner/publisher succumbed to illness. However, the impact of the paper, and Tipton’s work, continued to be felt for years after its demise. In 2012 more arrests and convictions were handed down to Lincoln County politicians. Tipton's stories concerning early-voting and campaign shenanigans, which were adamantly denied by the politicians involved, ultimately proved to be true. The result was a sheriff and a county commissioner being forced out of office and being issued an inmate number.
No matter how hard one tries to cover up the truth, it will always find a way to poke through the cracks. Once that truth sees a little sunshine, a tenacious truth seeker who has a way with words can influence change via verse, prose, or newsprint.