Meet Owen Hassell, local news editor of the Wilmington StarNews –

Hello, it’s me. I’ve thought about this column for a long, long time.
With apologies to Todd Rundgren, the “me” this time is, well, me. My name is Owen Hassell, and I am the local news editor for the Wilmington StarNews.
Me and my dog, Napoleon Dynamite Hassell (aka the bestest medium-sized Jack Russell Terrier ever), arrived in Wilmington in March 2017 after I accepted a position as sports editor. I made the four-hour drive south on U.S. 17 from my hometown, Elizabeth City, where I was sports editor for The Daily Advance newspaper.
Then in 2020, the world changed. You guessed it: I began editing news content.
It’s been a challenge with ups and downs. Through it all I’m learning more about the Wilmington area and how we can best cover it.
And as my lede would suggest, I’m a fan of classic tunes. So, let me take you through my experiences here via song lyrics.
“That’s Not Me” by The Beach Boys
I took a chance coming to Wilmington. To me, it’s been the big city. Can I make it outside of northeastern North Carolina? I did once when I attended and then graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. That’s a start.
My sense of restlessness finally pushed me toward applying to the StarNews. If I fail, I fail. Sure, it’s a new place, but it’s still eastern North Carolina.
My dad said there will be days where you’ll wonder what the heck you got yourself into. But that doesn’t mean you made the wrong decision. It means don’t back down.
In the movie “Shenandoah,” which centers around a family torn by the Civil War, Jimmy Stewart’s character said “If we don’t try, we don’t do. And if we don’t do, why are we here on this Earth?”
LEARN MORE:Read the latest stories from editor Owen Hassell
“Don’t Look Back In Anger” by Oasis
And for those times I didn’t do, there’s always some regret. To start, what did I miss? Did that headline make you care enough to read? (Reckon the one for this column did since you’re here, right?)
Perhaps I missed out on story ideas to better cover an issue. Did I best help a reporter capture the essence of a story?
I tell reporters we’re learning together. I’m a coach, they’re the player, and they’re far more vital to find a way to win.
However, win or lose, move on and don’t look back in anger.
“Places In My Past” by James Taylor
These “good times gone by” teach me that looking back can also provide courage to try new ideas.
You’ve probably seen my byline on plenty of trending and history stories. How can I tell those stories in a different way? I see that content as twofold: I learn what’s being talked about here and the moments in Wilmington history that connect then to now.
“My Back Pages” by Bob Dylan
This one keeps me humble. Boy, did I once know everything about everything only to realize I’ve got a lot to learn about…everything. That’s part of the excitement about the news business: There’s always something a little different each day that keeps you in check.
“Soak Up The Sun” by Sheryl Crow
Maybe it’s Pollyanna of me, but we’re all blessed. I’m blessed with being around a great staff that makes me better. More people are reading the StarNews each year. It’s true: I have the receipts.
Of course, more resources are always wanted. We can always improve. But let’s be thankful for what we got (great song by William DeVaughn).
After all, what we got is pretty dang good.
“Crawling Back To You” by Tom Petty
I get frustrated easily. There’s a plan and it must go this way or that way, right? News doesn’t always flow along those lines. Adapting is difficult. I strive to provide worth to where I work, and there are days where “I feel very sad” and believe “I just wasn’t made for these times” (another Beach Boys reference from the masterpiece “Pet Sounds”).
Then something clicks. That worry didn’t amount to anything.