Budd McLaughlin has written for some of Huntsville’s most iconic newsrooms over the last 35 years and is now a regular contributor to Ad4!’s Red Pencil Blog.
Originally from Pennsville, N.J., Budd first made an appearance in Alabama when he enrolled in Auburn University.
As one of Auburn’s first journalism graduates, he then began his career in Salem, N.J., as a sportswriter for Today’s Sunbeam.
That February, Budd awoke one morning and could not find his car. His car wasn’t stolen but, instead, buried in multiple feet of snow.
Naturally, he picked up the phone and made a call to one of his Auburn professors asking about job openings in Alabama.
As a result, he started at the Huntsville News as a sports editor on April 1, 1979 and was there until 1983.
After a brief move to Virginia, Budd found himself back at the Huntsville News as a news editor and played multiple roles there until the paper folded in 1996.
He then transferred to The Huntsville Times as a news editor and became the business editor in 2008. He was with the paper until being laid off in 2012 with about 100 co-workers as the company made a change in publication.
Today, Budd is the sports information director at Alabama A&M University. As such a valuable asset to the Huntsville community, we wanted to introduce him to our readers through a brief Q&A.
Ad4!: Can you tell me a little bit about the beginning of your writing career?
Budd: It started in 1979. I got my first job at a newspaper called Today’s Sunbeam in my home county, Salem County.
The first event I covered, as a sports writer, was a girls’ high school field hockey game that ended 0-0. That sparked some creativity in me. I had to write a 300-word story on a game where there was no score!
But, it didn’t turn me away. I said, “Ok, I can make something out of this.”
Ad4!: What about your time as the business editor of The Huntsville Times? I know that you were originally trained as a sports writer.
When the position came open, I applied. I said, “I’d like to give it a shot.”
I paid attention to business a little bit, but I never read the business section. Still, I just knew that I could make it attractive to people like me.
AD4!: That’s almost as important as knowing business.
Budd: Exactly, because the business writers would always use business jargon. That’s what I think turned me off to looking at it. But they gave me the chance, and I had fun with it.
Originally, it was just a four days a week and Sunday section, but we made it a seven-day a week section. We made it viable and focused on the local businesses.
Ad4!: Do you have a favorite piece from that time?
Budd: I’d say there are a few.
It was mainly when I would do pieces on local small businesses.
Sometimes, I would get an email from them saying, “Thank you so much! My phone has been ringing off the hook,” or they would say “so many people have come up and said, ‘I didn’t know you were here.’”
Ad4!: So what has prepared you for writing for our business blog?
Budd: Well, I guess I’d say being a columnist.
When I had a column, every Saturday was small-business-oriented.
I had two columns during the week. Then, when I was at the Huntsville News as a news editor, every Monday, I had a column. Topics ranged from growing up in Jersey to making fun of the county school board.
And I would write to salute people who were worthy of it. The people you would never hear about because they weren’t on TV. We would let people know what they did.
Ad4!: What is your favorite subject to write about personally?
Like when I used to write for a column, I’d just write on whatever hit me. The “every-man,” “every-woman” type story.
I wrote a story on when Springsteen came to Auburn back in ’76. I wrote a piece on the history of hockey in Huntsville.
Ad4!: What is one book on your nightstand, right now?
Right now on my nightstand… Willie Mays. I’ve got a book that’s really thick, and it’s really good. It’s about the best sports book I’ve ever read.
Ad4!: What is the best compliment you’ve ever gotten?
Budd: It was a column I did after the ’89 tornado hit (Huntsville). We lived off of Airport Road and got wiped out. I wrote something to let people know what the Red Cross was all about and stressing renters insurance.
Months later, someone wrote me. They had gotten renters insurance after I wrote about it. Later on, they were involved in a fire and their apartment got burned down. A neighbor had left something on the stove, but with the renters insurance they were able to recoup.
They said, “We were lucky to have the renters insurance. Thank you for writing about it.”