If you were to look for the office of The West Georgian in 1973, you would have to walk down to the end of a dimly lit student center hallway to find a small room. Though the room was plain in itself, the bright and chatty staff always made up for any lack of space or dull appearances. The office had several desks facing a single chalkboard at the front of the room and a lone veteran typewriter that was shared among the college newspaper staff.
In that very room, The West Georgian staff was hard at work over the next several decades, remaining the campus’ top source for news. The paper featured articles on the terrible parking situation and when students should register for classes.
Fresh out of her high school graduation in 1973, Nancy Lee Badertscher started at West Georgia College as an English major with ambition but was unsure if she had found her right fit. Her interest in writing eventually led her to connect to the journalism program at WGC.
She attributes much of her passion she found in journalism to one woman: her professor, Dora Byron.
“I also had a wonderful teacher, Dora Byron,” says Nancy. “She was a former journalist and the only professor of journalism at the school at the time. I don’t think I would’ve gone into journalism had it not been for my experiences at the paper, the yearbook, and working with Dora.
“I think the best story I ever wrote was about a basketball game that I covered, knowing nothing about the sport,” continues Nancy. “Dora Byron was editing the stories we all had written, and when she got to the end of mine, having never made a mark on it, she tossed it in the trash. She had little to say except she had higher expectations for me than that story delivered.
I left in tears. 15 years later I was at a reunion of the old staff, and she told me she had always expected good things out of me.”
While at West Georgia College, Nancy worked on staff at the paper as a reporter, copy editor, and associate editor. She would later become Editor-In-Chief of The Chieftain, the college yearbook, in 1976.
Determined, talented, and dedicated is how Nancy best described the people who ran the behind-the-scenes of The West Georgian in the 70s.
“The people that I worked with at the newspaper were deeply invested,” says Nancy. “They worked long hours, dug deep, and were deeply committed to getting the true story.
“All of us put in for more hours than we ever got paid for,” continues Nancy. “You could hardly go in the newspaper office where somebody wasn’t there talking about a story or working on an article. We were the post-Watergate generation, and we didn’t mind butting heads with the administration.”
Despite her love for the paper and yearbook, Nancy left WGC in 1976 to pursue her degree in journalism, at Georgia State University, as journalism was only offered as a minor at WGC during the time. Before transferring schools, Nancy worked for two years at the Warner Robins Daily Sun, confirming her calling for journalism.
After graduating in 1980, Nancy went on to work for various papers in Warner Robins, Jesup, Statesboro, Gwinnett County, Macon, and Atlanta. Her career with the Atlanta- Journal Constitution would last for over 15 years.
In 2016, she would begin her current career as a freelance journalist, writing for newspapers such as The New York Times.
“I was a reporter, political writer, PolitiFact writer, and former Gwinnett bureau editor,” says Nancy. “I loved it all, from running the show in my old stomping ground of Gwinnett, covering state Sen.-turned-Gov. Sonny Perdue and putting the spotlight on local and state education issues.”
Within her career, Nancy has seen an abundance of awards showcasing her talents, winning over a dozen state and national awards. In 1989, she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in General Reporting with the Gwinnett Daily News for “persistent reporting that revealed expense account abuses by members of the local County Board of Commissioners,” as stated in the description of the awards.
Nancy looks back on her career of 40 years and says she will always remember the stories and work she accomplished.
“The devil is in the details and that every person has a story to tell and an interesting one at that,” says Nancy. “Much is changing about the business and much of it is not good. I think it’s up to each journalist to be true to the craft, report with honesty, integrity and to be true to yourself.”
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