Betty Bean to join Writers Hall of Fame

Susan EspirituNorth Knoxville, Our Town Neighbors

Friends of Literacy established the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame in 2004 to honor local and regional writers who have created an outstanding body of work. This year, Betty Bean is the Hall of Fame inductee for journalism.

Bean has been reporting news for over 40 years from Knoxville and surrounding counties with her career coming full circle. She now writes for Knox TN Today, owned by Sandra Clark, who hired Betty for her first reporting job at the Halls Shopper.

She has interviewed the world’s only flip-flop clogger, a one-armed fiddle player and Cas Walker, covering polities, courts and crime throughout her journalism career. She is a graduate of Holston High School and the University of Tennessee.

Betty tells her story better than anyone: “In early 1984, I saw a note on the bulletin board in the UT School of Journalism office saying that the Halls Shopper was looking for a general assignment reporter. I called the listed number and talked to the publisher, who scheduled me for an interview the following day. I didn’t have a resume or any experience worth bragging about, but I scraped up some stuff I’d written for journalism class and went to see Sandra Clark, who hired me on the spot and wanted me to start the next day. It was the beginning of an eventful year and an association that would last for 40 years.

“The following year, I went to work for as a police reporter at The Mountain Press in Sevierville. My assigned beat expanded into courts and politics over the next couple of years, and in 1987, I was offered a job at The Knoxville Journal. I was assigned to cover Knox County Commission, but soon expanded into politics and crime and most anything anybody else didn’t want to do. I covered the AIDS epidemic and spent big chunks of time in Cocke County writing about the fight to clean up the Pigeon River. (Finally), I became the Journal’s state government reporter and hit the road for Nashville during the months when the General Assembly was in session.

“Sadly, the Journal – one of the oldest newspapers in Tennessee – closed down on New Year’s Day 1992, throwing about 75 employees out of work. I made plans to take an out-of-town job and went back to The Shopper on a part-time basis while I looked around. After a few months, I accepted a job in Pennsylvania and threw myself a going-away party in the Old City. I had such a good time that I decided not to leave. I probably should have been embarrassed, but, Nah.

“I went back to the Shopper and my going-away party became another story.

“My next stop was the newly expanded alt-weekly, Metro Pulse, where I worked full-time, part-time or as an occasional contributor for the next decade or so, interspersed with steady Shopper jobs. When Clark founded a new online publication in 2017, I pitched in with her again and was a KnoxTNToday contributor until 2024.”

Each week, we will be recognizing an inductee prior to the Hall of Fame Awards Gala on April 19. To purchase to tickets to the gala: Writers Hall of Fame Tickets.

Nominations are accepted from the public each year for the categories to include lifetime achievement, fiction, nonfiction, journalism, poetry, social media, playwriting, songwriting, children’s literature, and young adult literature

An independent panel of judges evaluates nominees based on recognition within the writer’s field, longevity, quality, and volume of work. All nominees must have been born in, currently reside in, or have a body of work related to the East Tennessee region.

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