There's something about the news business that attracts some unusual characters.
Most of that unusual is just weird or funny.
At the first daily newspaper I worked at, more than 20 years ago, I worked with a photographer who skateboarded to his assignments for the entire summer. His side hobbies included being the bass player in a punk band and being an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, a group whose website proclaims itself as "an international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe." In other words, they liked to pretend they were knights and fight with swords while lasses looked on in admiration.
When I hosted a housewarming party, once I cleared my probation at this paper (which shall remain unnamed), a reporter showed up with the two letters he had, handwritten and addressed to him personally, from Clifford Olson. You know, just as a conversation piece.
The sports writer at this paper (he's still there and he's the longtime sports editor) is such a fan of the New York Rangers that he cut out of his own wedding reception with his best man to catch the third period of a regular season game in the hotel bar. When the New Jersey Devils scored with two seconds left in Game 7 of the conference finals against the Rangers in 1994 to force overtime, his mother called him during the intermission and begged him not to do anything rash if the blue shirts lost.
They won, they went on to beat the Canucks in the Stanley Cup final and Mark Messier lifting the Cup counts as one of the greatest moments of his entire life.
And that's just the first paper I worked at.
In other newsrooms, I've worked with similarly colourful characters.
But not all of my war stories are pleasant.
I've shared newsroom space with drunks, thieves, plagiarists, wife beaters, and violent offenders.
And, no, I don't include myself in any one of those categories.
One newsroom colleague once told me, in all seriousness, how glad he was that he found journalism, because he honestly believed if he hadn't, he'd been in jail.
Which leads me to John Pope.
He worked in the Citizen newsroom for five years, from April 1976 until July 1981, and a quick survey of his work shows him to be a competent reporter and photographer. On Tuesday, he shot two people to death and injured a third in a Filipino courtroom. An investigation is ongoing into whether he was killed by police, or whether he took his own life after being wounded by police.
As Tom Nixon's letter on this page points out, Pope may have ended his life as a murderer but he wasn't always a bad person.
The memories Pope's former colleagues at the Citizen, including Nixon, have of him run the gamut, from dangerous weirdo to friendly and hardworking.
As adults, we're quick to demonize people who do horrible things, forgetting that they didn't come out of their mother's womb that way. The disturbing thing for anyone who knew Pope and thought well of him is how their memories don't match the horrible thing he did.
"He wouldn't be someone you would fear," recalled retired reporter Bernice Trick, a well-respected member of this newsroom and as good a judge of character as any I've ever met.
Trick and Nixon's recollections of Pope don't condone his actions but they're a sober reminder that Pope was a human being and he touched many of the people he met in a positive way.
That makes what happened in that courtroom in Cebu City this week all the more tragic.