Then and now: former editor reminisces

Brooke J. Freundschuh, Managing Editor

It’s one o’clock in the morning on a Tuesday in 1989, and although the new day has just begun, it’s still Monday night for the occupants of the third floor of Keller Hall at the University of North Alabama.

Linda East leans over farther onto her desk, wishing that her editorial took up just two more inches of space on the page on the board in front of her. The clock ticks on the wall, and she knows that it is only a matter of time before she must have the newest issue of the Flor-Ala to the Times Daily Office for printing.

Today, she is known as Linda Emnace. Her early journalism days seem far behind her as she has since returned to and graduated from UNA with a degree in accounting, and now works as a certified personal accountant (CPA). She recently got remarried after her first husband passed away a few years earlier.

Emnace grew up in Loretto, Tenn. on a farm with her family. She is the middle child of three sisters. She grew up Catholic and attended Catholic school from first to eighth grade. One of her schoolmates was John Paul White, who was two years her junior. Her father was a factory worker and her mother was a homemaker. She and her three sisters were all first-generation college students and first-generation high school graduates on their father’s side. She grew up being told that if she was going to go to college, she had to get good grades in school to earn scholarships. She chose UNA due to its close proximity to her home. Her family shared one car, and it wasn’t the nicest or newest, so she had to be somewhere close enough to home that she could risk the travel.

In the summer before she started her freshman year, she visited UNA and decided that she wanted to write for the Flor-Ala. After she began that fall, she went to the third floor of Keller Hall where the student media offices were at the time and began asking questions. As soon as she walked in, they wanted to keep her. She was instantly put on her first story. She doesn’t remember what it was about, but knows she did her first interview in the Guillot University Center (GUC).

“It was atrocious. Brett Davidson was the editor then, and it looked like somebody bled all over it when he edited it. But once I understood what he wanted, it was easy,” Emnace said.

From then on, she was Linda from the Flor-Ala. She wrote on a volunteer basis her freshman year then was promoted to Associate Editor her sophomore year. At the time there were two associate editors, who both served under the executive editor. These three editors were
the only three paid members of the staff, everyone else worked on a volunteer basis. They struggled to find writers, even from the journalism department, which was mainly centered on newspaper reporting at the time.

To support herself, Linda also worked at McDonald’s and at a local hospital as well as the twenty or more hours a week she spent on the paper. The process of producing a newspaper was much different in these days as well. As opposed to simply typing and printing a story out on paper, designing the pages on the computer, and dragging and dropping digital photos, the paper had to be laid out by hand on a board and presented exactly the way they wanted it printed. The pages and stories were measured in inches.

Emnace recalls that the fraternities and sororities never thought that their events were receiving enough coverage from the paper, so in order to test it, they measured how many inches of the paper were dedicated to Greek life compared to the number of students involved in Greek life compared to other things. Their findings were that they did in fact have an adequate amount of coverage of Greek organizations.

Emnace shares that because there were only three true staff members, she had to spend a lot of time writing stories as well as editing and laying out pages. She states that there was a lot of “legwork” involved, due to the lack of search engines or internet tools to be used to gather information. For any small statistic or data, research had to be conducted in the library.

Along with the amount of dedication the paper required came more appreciation for the Flor-Ala and its importance to campus life and culture.

“It was the social media of the time,” Emnace said.

If one needed campus news, the Flor-Ala was the only place to go. They published once a week, which left readers anticipating the next issue. Emnace recalls that people would recognize her name from the paper and be curious to see what she actually looked like when they had classes with her. She fondly recalls the connections that the newspaper helped her make on campus, including the relationship she was able to develop with the University President, Robert Guillot.

Perhaps one of her fondest memories is when the band .38 Special came to UNA to perform. She was able to interview them, and the lead singer, Donnie Van Zant was impressed with her interview skills. She asked him how he remembered which city he was in every night, and he answered that he had to tape a card on the stage in front of him with the cities name on it, remarking that no one had ever asked him that question before. She also had the opportunity to meet Larry Gatlin of the Gatlin brothers, a southern gospel group and author William F. Buckley Jr, the founder of “National Review.”

Her time at the Flor-Ala is perhaps best summarized in a piece written in February of 1990 by James L. Rhodes, the man who took over as Executive Editor when she graduated.

“Thank Goodness, Monday Only Comes Once a Week” By James L. Rhodes February 1990

“Please, pardon me for not speaking

and I will try to pardon you for expecting me to be cordial on a Monday night.

Check with me Wednesday, we’ll chat.

Please, excuse me one moment.

Hey! You can’t put that headline there!

What’s on fire?

They kicked who out of SGA? Ask Leah, she’ll know.

They’re going to change Leo’s name to what?

I hope they don’t do it before the paper goes to press.

Dan, how many pages are we talking about?

We have to pull whose ad?

Has anybody seen a pica ruler? (or the Sports Editor for that matter?)

Hey Mark! I need a feature picture for page one.

What do you mean this is all of them?

Hey Linda, the processor just ate a whole page of headlines!

Hey Julie, can you make your editorial about three inches longer so I can fix this hole?

Who stole my knife?

Oh you’ll never guess who I saw last night.

Did I assign anyone to what banquet?

I’m going to get a coke.

Does anyone else want one?

Hey Linda, when are you going to order pizza?

Now what were you saying?

Please excuse the interruption.

Hey Linda, Help- there’s no way this story will fill this page.

Did you hear about that girl getting hit crossing Pine Street?

Yeah, someone is doing a story.

The UPC just called and canceled their back page ad.

I’m sorry, can I make you an appointment to see me on Wednesday?”

The words of this lively sketch still perfectly capture the experience of being a part of UNA student media 32 years later, despite the changes that have taken place both in the world and in print media technology.

Emnace compares her college days compared to now, stating that things were not nearly as diverse in her time at UNA. She applauds the fact that effort is made to invite international students. She recalls receiving dirty looks when she would go out to eat with her black coworker and is impressed with the progress that has been made in the time since.

“You think back to when you’re a kid and things just seem so nice and positive, and then you grow up. You see things in a whole new way when you get older, so you don’t know if its just because you were young and stupid or if its just because things have changed,” Emnace said.

After the long hours spent writing stories in college, Emnace got a job in Media Relations at Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital. Shortly after, she married her husband and had five children, the first of whom is disabled. Her husband was a brown man, and she continued to see racial prejudice work in the community around her.

Now, she works as a CPA, and enjoys her life and family over career. However, she looks back at her time spent with the Flor-Ala with no regrets. “I have never had the feeling of camaraderie again in life that I had in that Flor-Ala office. We went through life together. We knew each other how we really were at our worst. It was wonderful.”