"We used to try and find a mix of providing the reader what the reader wanted as well as what we, the editors, feel the reader needed," he said. "I think now that's out of balance, and we find too many newspapers concentrating on giving the reader what they think the reader wants, which is frequently soft stuff and happy stuff."
Hatfield retired from newspapers in 2000. A few months later, he took a job as vice president for corporate development for the University of Arizona Foundation, then retired from that job in 2007. He and Sandy moved back to Huntington in 2007, where both their sons, Chris and Joel, now live too.
While their initial move out West was a dramatic change, the move back to their hometown four years ago was also a distinct challenge after decades of keeping a home in Tucson and maintaining a fairly high-profile life in Arizona.
Hatfield, for instance, had come to know well Arizona's prominent senator, John McCain. And the couple were friends with Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle "Gabbie" Giffords, and were shocked by the assassination attempt on her life in January 2011.
But the quality of life in West Virginia and the chance to keep on writing has helped as Hatfield said goodbye to his Arizona existence, even as he keeps daily tabs on the state's news via the Web.
"I live near a walking path beside Four Pole Creek here," he said. "It's wonderful to walk that path every day. It beats any place I ever walked in Arizona."
Last August, with help from Hatfield's former city editor at the Herald-Dispatch, Charlie Bowen, who now runs Design By Bowen, Hatfield put out his print-on-demand short story collection, "A Pocketful of Cinders," through Amazon.com's CreateSpace subsidiary.
The book (with a cover illustration by son Chris) is available in print and e-book editions via Amazon.com. Print copies are for sale at Tamarack and the Red Caboose Regional Artisan Center at the Cabell Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau at Heritage Village.
The nuanced, wide-ranging stories are fictional, yet deeply rooted in Hatfield's own coming-of-age in the West Virginia hills.
In one, a young boy has a starry-eyed view of a heroic uncle who goes off to save the world in World War II, yet as both of them age, the boy realizes he is neither a hero nor a lout, but something in between. In another, a family of females move in next door to a young man's house, one of whom stands naked on the back porch facing the main road, as good as a billboard for the services offered within.
While Hatfield says he never grew up beside a brothel ("that's the fictional part"), a life in close proximity to one's neighbors, a childhood spent outdoors, a boy's dreams and hopes -- all of that is drawn from the soil and hills of the Mountain State.
"You can't really read the book and not know how I grew up," he said. "The characters are fictitious and the events are fictitious. But the atmosphere, the feel for the era -- I grew up in the '40s and '50s, and life was a lot different then -- that's the real part of it."
The work in progress on his desk is ample evidence that he has many more chapters to go, now that he's back in the place where he began.
"I'm glad to be back," Hatfield said. "It's a good place to live, underappreciated by a lot of people who live here.
"I miss my friends in Tucson -- but I'm back home."
Reach Douglas Imbrogno at doug...@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.