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Betty Debnam – RIP

Betty Debnam, the creator and editor of The Mini Page, has passed away.


Betty Glass Debnam Hunt
October 23, 1929 – November 1, 2020

 

Elementary school teacher, advertising copywriter
Creator of the educational newspaper insert The Mini Page

From the obituary:

While teaching in Wake County, Betty had the idea of combining education and journalism into a newspaper for kids and approached The News & Observer about publishing it. She always gave special thanks to the late Dave Jones, associate publisher of the newspaper who as advertising manager gave her the chance to launch The Mini Page. The first edition was published in The News & Observer on Aug. 31, 1969.

For many of the Mini Page early years, Betty worked as the sole member of the staff as the editor, reporter, artist, salesman, and bill collector.

   
above: the first The Mini Page section of August 31, 1969

As The Mini Page grew in popularity, others joined the staff. Betty remained grateful for the work they did to make the Mini Page a success, including Martha Youngblood, Ainslie Jones Uhl, Tali Denton, Lyn Kirby, Julie Gross, Lucy Lien, the late Wendy Daly, and the late Ann Chamberlain.

Betty always felt that Universal Press Syndicate excelled at selling The Mini Page to newspapers across the country. She remained thankful to her editor of over 20 years, Alan McDermott, for his guidance and assistance. At one time, more than 500 newspapers published The Mini Page.

Betty served as editor of The Mini Page for 37 years. She sold The Mini Page to Universal Press Syndicate in 2007. The complete collection of over 2,000 [Betty edited] issues of The Mini Page is online as part of the Southern Historical Collection at The Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The Raleigh News & Observer has a wonderful memorial to Betty.

By 1977, The Mini Page no longer relied on the advertisers and became syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate.

Alan McDermott, her editor at Universal Press Syndicate from 1978 to 2007, remembered Hunt always sought ways to perfect The Mini Page.

“It took us awhile to learn each other,” McDermott told The News & Observer Monday in a phone interview. “She was very creative, but rather disorganized. I’m not creative, but organized. We made a great team.”

“She was a very elegant woman, always beautifully dressed, Southern gal, very genteel,” he said. “But she knew how to stand up for her feature. She wanted to make sure that the sales force fully supported the Mini Page. She would tell them, ‘Keep selling it, don’t forget the Mini Page,’ even when new features were coming out.”

A number of books have been published gathering related sections of The Mini Page,

   

including a comic book by Betty Debnam the cartoonist!

Betty, and the masthead that opened this page, will be remembered by millions of child and adult readers of newspapers, It certainly pushes my nostalgic button of that weekly insert from days gone by.

 

 

Community Comments

#1 Mary Ella
November/4/2020
@ 2:34 pm

One of those things from childhood that I had almost forgotten all about, but the Mini Page and the Weekly Reader at school was such a fixture. I can remember trying to design my own Mini Spy pictures.

#2 Mary McNeil
November/4/2020
@ 4:41 pm

This was a great feature for the elementary kids I taught ! Thanks, Ms Debnam !

#3 Darryl Heine
November/5/2020
@ 2:08 pm

When I lived in Maryland from 1973 to 1979 that was part of the Washington, D.C. area, you could get access to The Mini Page every Sunday in the defunct since 1981 Washington Star newspaper.

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