HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Early on, Don Hatfield hoped to be a novelist and writer of short stories. As many hopeful writers do, he took a newspaper job and worked for seven years as a sportswriter in his hometown, then moved to the copy desk.
He continued working on short stories and magazine articles, but then something happened: a long, successful career in running newspapers.
"I started moving up the ladder in the newspaper business," said Hatfield, sitting at a desk in his home near Ritter Park.
Atop the desk sat several copies of a new short story collection, "A Pocketful of Cinders," testament to the fact he has found his way back to writing.
More on the book in a moment. But first a look at that career, which took the 76-year-old West Virginia native from the days of hot lead type, manual typewriters and glue pots to computer screens, email and digital publishing.
Also on his desk, lay a neat stack of printouts of chapters from an autobiography under way in which he recounts the rungs he climbed going up that ladder. Working title? "Newspaperman."
"I enjoyed the newsroom," said Hatfield, who took his first full-bore management job as managing editor of the city's old evening paper, the Huntington Advertiser, in 1972.
The paper was later combined with the morning paper, the Herald-Dispatch. Hatfield became executive editor in 1979, and then president and publisher in 1982. The paper was part of the Gannett chain and, in 1985, Hatfield was appointed a Gannett regional vice president.
"Then, Gannett asked me to go west and take over our Southwestern papers," he said.
So, west he and his wife, Sandy, went.
Hatfield became editor and publisher of the Tucson Citizen, and regional vice president of Gannett West, overseeing the El Paso Times and Santa Fe New Mexican. He also was briefly in charge of a USA Today print and distribution center outside Phoenix.
Through it all, it was the daily newsroom in which he took greatest pleasure, he said. That, and a newspaper executive's ability to make things happen by marshalling a paper's resources.
"I enjoyed being with reporters and editors and especially young reporters who I felt I could help teach and nurture. And working on significant stories -- which unfortunately a lot of papers don't do much of anymore."
He presses that last point.
"It disappoints me that not as many newspapers do investigative stories," he said. "They don't ask enough questions. I just don't think a lot of today's newspapers are 'news' papers. Too many have given up the charge of going after the news.