While hard news stories are a community newspaper’s meat and bones, its feature stories comprise its heart and soul.
Rather than cover the movers and shakers of city and county government, feature stories explore the lives of individual residents and the good works done by local nonprofits, volunteer organizations, students and seniors.
Lu Stitt is the Sedona Red Rock News’ feature writer, having worked as a reporter in Sedona and Cottonwood for more than 15 years.
“Being the oldest reporter on staff, I don’t have any knowledge to pass on — everyone is very capable — but I think my years help enhance my stories,” Stitt said. “I have a lot of life under my belt.”
Stitt was born in Fort Wayne, Ind., in 1947, the middle of three daughters. Stitt said she was the “adventurous one” — her sisters Tess, 67, and Anita, 61, both still live in Fort Wayne.
Stitt attended Bishop Lures High School, a parochial school, and graduated in 1965.
She went to work as a secretary for International Harvester, a farm machinery and big truck company, but took night classes to become an English teacher at Indiana University-Purdue University Extension.
Three years later, she met her future husband, a fraternity pledge who she said looked like actor Sal Mineo, from “Rebel Without a Cause.”
The couple married in May 1968 and Stitt left school to raise their three children, Brian, Angela and Daniel.
The family moved to Mesa in 1973 so that Stitt’s husband could work at International Harvester’s proving grounds in Phoenix.
As they drove into Salt River Canyon, Stitt said she felt like she was coming home even though she’d never been in Arizona before.
After her youngest child started kindergarten, Stitt returned to school.
“I needed something to fill my time and I loved going to college,” Stitt said. “When my kids were doing their homework, so was I.”
She took a series of writing classes at Mesa Community College. In her third semester, she was approached to write for MCC’s school newspaper, The Legend.
“I liked the process, and so I wanted to get a degree in journalism,” Stitt said.
Stitt transferred to Arizona State University in fall 1981. She graduated with a degree in mass communications with a specialty in journalism in 1984 at age 38. She met news anchor Walter Cronkite, for whom ASU named the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication the following year.
Like most ASU journalism students fresh out of school, Stitt applied to write for The Arizona Republic, but the newspaper never hired students without experience. Stitt did freelance for the paper covering feature stories, such as the haunted house of Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks.
Once Stitt’s children were grown and out of the house, she went back to work full-time in 1988 as an administrative secretary for ASU’s news bureau.
In 1994, Stitt said she found an opening working with Larson Newspapers and contacted then
Managing Editor Tom Brossart, who hired her as a feature writer within the week.
Stitt said she was surprised to arrive and find Patrick Schweiss working as Larson Newspapers production department manager — coincidently she had worked with him in 1988 when he was a student employee of ASU’s transportation and parking department.
One of her first feature stories was interviewing “Singin’ in the Rain” actor Donald O’Connor, chosen as grand marshal of the Sedona St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1995.
Brossart promoted Stitt to news editor of the Cottonwood Journal Extra in 1995 and she covered features and hard news in Cottonwood, Clarkdale and Jerome. She transferred back to Sedona as the feature writer in October.
Over the last 15 years, Stitt has interviewed hundreds of residents and a few celebrities, such as former President Gerald Ford, 1996 presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, comedian Jerry Stiller and actresses Anne Meara and Connie Stevens.
Part of her passion for journalism comes from a desire to give back to the community.
“This job leaves me little time to volunteer,” Stitt said. “But I can bring out the stories, cases and campaigns that are doing good things. I’ve had people tell me they volunteered because of an article. That’s my way of giving back.”
Family is also important to Stitt. Her daughter, Angela, 38, shares Stitt’s home in Cottonwood with her daughter, Nikol, 17, and son, Tyler, 15. Stitt regularly visits her sons in Phoenix, 41-year-old Brian and 35-year-old Daniel, his wife, Jenny, and their children Dallas, 7, Kiera, 2, and Kaitlyn, 3 weeks.
“Playing music is one of my greatest joys,” Stitt said.
Stitt has played flute with the Cottonwood Community Band since 1996. The 40-piece band practices weekly and plays four or five times a year, mainly on the patriotic holidays.
Stitt started playing flute in her freshman year of high school. After moving to Arizona, she played with the Mesa Community Band for 20 years.
Stitt came from a musical family. Her father primarily played trumpet by ear and wonderful piano, and he had a baritone voice honed as a drill sergeant in World War II. When he met his future wife, she was singing with the United Service Organization.
Stitt’s father was also a basketball referee and baseball umpire who gave Stitt her love of baseball.
“He used to say I was his only son,” Stitt said. “I was the adventurous one. I used to go into the woods with him, climb trees, fish with him.”
A “domestic at heart,” Stitt said she enjoys knitting and sewing, and creating handmade gifts and has recently taken up spinning her own yarn. She said she has a lot of fun on the dance floor and enjoys exploring and experimenting in the kitchen. She is also a Living History reenactor at Fort Verde State Historic Park in Camp Verde.
“I am a doer of many things but a master of none,” Stitt said