And what a storied career it was, most of it spent right here at this newspaper.
Pappas arrived at the Daily Home in 1981 as a reporter in the Pell City bureau. She left as the newspaper’s editor and publisher, having risen through the ranks as bureau manager in Pell City, city editor in Talladega, managing editor and general manager. The story of her career is the history of Talladega and St. Clair counties for the past three decades, for the job of a journalist is to tell the stories of its community.
“My first day on the job lasted 14 hours,” she recalled Wednesday at a reception in her honor. “Larry Barton was the mayor of Talladega and was at the center of some little controversy, as you might recall, and he had just fired the police chief. When that day was finally over, I cried all the way home, saying, ‘I’ll never make it in the newspaper business.’”
That was one of the few times she was wrong.
She exercised unfailing and unflinching news judgment with equal zeal whether exposing corruption, secrecy and malfeasance or, as in her last story this past week, covering a traveling photography exhibit to help find permanent homes for foster children.
She led the reporting staff to hundreds of awards, including the state’s most prestigious, the Community Service and Freedom of Information awards from the Alabama Press Association and Associated Press Managing Editors. “The Daily Home has won FOI and Community Service every year since 1996 in APME, APA or both,” Pappas said Friday, asked to reminisce about her most treasured moments. Her favorite award, however, was having the Daily Home recognized for Best Locally Generated News in her first year as city editor.
Her favorite story? There have been many. But the one that stands out above all the others was winning an Alabama Supreme Court decision in 2004 forcing the Talladega Water and Sewer Board to open its records, the culmination of a two-year battle.
“When we opened the champagne, that was our version of the Pulitzer,” she said.
Pappas launched the St. Clair Times, Lakeside magazine, and numerous special sections in the Daily Home. Outside the newspaper, she co-founded the Talladega County Improvement Foundation, a public-private partnership working to improve education in the county, and she instigated a coalition of city government, the school system and the community to build Pell City Center.
As a journalist, Pappas always considered local news her primary responsibility.
“Local news is the centerpiece of everything we do,” she said.
That is her greatest legacy.