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Susan Shinn column: She loved spreading good news

By Susan Shinn

Salisbury Post

CHINA GROVE — When Linda Hatley hears a siren, it’s hard for her not to grab her camera and go.

“I’ve still got the newspaper hound in me,” says Linda, who lives with her husband, Gary, in China Grove.

For three years in the early ’70s, Linda was editor of the Norwood News in Stanly County.

A man named Mr. Smith came to town and started the paper.

“It wasn’t even a tabloid,” Linda says. “It was just a little fold-over thing with Polaroid pictures.”

Mr. Smith had asked Linda to help out, and asked her to take over the paper when he decided to return to Concord.

“I prayed about it,” Linda says, “and the Lord said to take it.”

So she and her first husband converted a room in their house to the newspaper office in November 1972.

She used an adjuster writer which justified the text and a headliner to make the headlines.

“Oh honey! It was antique, believe me,” she says.

The paper published every Thursday.

“By February, we had gone to an office on Main Street in Norwood and had gone to broadsheet,” Linda says, referring to the size of paper that most newspapers use.

She had an open house. Members of the Albemarle town council attended, as did mayors from surrounding towns. She couldn’t believe it.

She’d made more improvements in her paper. She’d gone from “hot type” to “cold type,” used color pictures and didn’t charge for bridal announcements.

When she started, she didn’t even know what a column inch was — the way ads are sold.

She learned fast.

She hired a photographer and published her ad rates. When he left, she learned how to take pictures, while her husband learned to develop them.

She hired neighborhood children to insert ads and roll papers. Linda and her husband delivered papers.

At the time, this was a departure because the paper had been mailed.

Eventually, subscribers were waiting in the driveways for the paper to arrive.

“People loved it,” Linda says. “It was their paper with their name on it. I reported happy news, good news, community news.”

There was the feature on the lady who made dolls, the family with 12 children — “100 biscuits a day” was her headline — the person who survived a kidney transplant.

Linda worked hard to sell advertising. She got the Belk account, the JC Penney account, the Eckerd account.

“I’d go wherever I had to,” she says.

She even went to the editor of the other paper in the county to ask him for his help in getting a picture for the graduation section. It would publish after his paper came out.

She didn’t realize how naive she was.

“You’re my competition,” he told her, “and I have no intention of helping you.”

It flabbergasted her, but it thrilled her, too.

He considered the Norwood News his competition.

At her open house, Linda had met a doctor who offered to help her when she needed it.

After the meeting with her rival editor, she called him. He came in as a silent partner to make the paper better.

During Linda’s first year as editor, the Norwood News was sent to 36 states, eight foreign countries and 66 counties in North Carolina.

“I guess the competition was upset,” she admits.

She worked 100-hour weeks to get the paper to bed.

“I look at everything as an opportunity,” she says. “I just love a challenge.”

Linda sold the paper when her husband became ill. She continued working as a photographer until she retired in 2004. She’s had other jobs over the years, but her newspaper work was the most exciting “by far.”

So, does she still want to pull out her camera when she passes a wreck?

“More than you can know,” Linda says.

nnn

Contact Susan Shinn at 704-797-4289 or sshinn@salisburypost.com.

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