Raising Awareness in the Community Through Storytelling

Be Inspired | Do Good

Shawn Nowlin is the editor of the Salem Times-Register, an avid basketball fan and music lover, a supporter of independent media and local business, and someone who always seeks out the truth, whether in a news story or politics.

He aspired to be a writer as a first grader, and shortly after graduating from Patrick Henry High School, he landed his first writing job. As a writer, he finds that one of the most important things he can do to stay sharp is to be continuously working in his craft. He spends most of his days writing, editing, and researching, working 60-70 hours per week as a storyteller and voice in the community.

As an editor, his job entails wearing many hats. He creates layout designs, conducts interviews, takes photos, writes articles, and more, and he’s been doing all of that over the past two years.

When asked how he comes up with stories, Shawn said that he considers the perspective of his audience to find events and stories that resonate.

Shawn typically keeps five front-page stories ready to go in the event that one or two of them just aren’t ready. The paper comes out every Wednesday, and by staying prepared, he doesn’t have to stress if someone doesn’t keep their word on bringing him information for one of the front-page stories.

On the flip side of the coin, Shawn says that he’s always open to feedback. “I truly believe that to be the best I can be, I have to get invaluable feedback from individuals who know me very well and friends who will be brutally honest.”

At his job, Shawn collaborates with co-workers and people in the community, and cultivating relationships is very important to him. In his free time, he makes it a point to contact people and keep relationships going.

When asked what advice he’d give himself looking back, Shawn said, “Sometimes your best isn’t going to be good enough.”

He elaborated by discussing the importance of not taking praise and criticism to heart, as they are both opinions of individuals, and how life is a roller coaster of emotions with good and bad days. When things aren’t going great, Shawn takes a step back and looks at the big picture. According to him, minor bumps in the road pale in comparison to the bigger struggles, and he’s quick to count his blessings.

Over the course of his career, Shawn has continuously worked on sharpening his craft. One way he does this is by creating a daily report card. Each morning, he writes a checklist of ten goals for the day, and he challenges himself to have them all accomplished by the end of the day.

Shawn says his role has shown him stories of joy and of heartbreak, and that’s made an impact on his life. He was at the mall over Thanksgiving when a woman approached him and said she was having financial trouble. He gave her cash to shop for groceries. Shawn said her story could so easily have been his own.

A hard worker who’s always looking out for the next story, Shawn said the best advice he ever received came from friend and sports writer Scoop Johnson. “Shawn, hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard,” said Scoop.

One of his keys to success, and a piece of advice that he shares with others, is to ask for help. “We all have goals in life. No one can accomplish anything by themselves. We all need a safety net. There’s no shame in asking for help. If you have good intentions, people are usually receptive to that,” he said.

Shawn encourages listeners to support independent media and likens it to the difference between Starbucks and a local coffee shop. While news is readily available on social media, supporting independent media helps local economies. The Salem Times-Register is $0.75 per copy, and a subscription is $35.

Listen to the full interview here.


Written by Heather Hawkins

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