The Island Free Press and Irene Nolan by Diane Lea

Building a community requires many things: a strong sense of place, a feeling of Diane Leabelonging, and a knowledge and appreciation of the people and events that have shaped the community and that continue to shape it. With our increasingly complex lives, communication is key to achieving these things. So, it is fortunate that since 2007, the residents and visitors to Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands have had the Island Free Press (IFP), an on-line newspaper as their eyes, ears and voice. The IFP covers local news, community events, calendars of programs and activities, weather alerts, National Park Service bulletins, and, of course, public opinion.

It is even more fortunate that Irene Nolan, co-owner and publisher/editor of IFP, is in the mix. Nolan has been a member of the island community for more than 35 years. She vacationed here while growing up and continued to visit with her husband. The couple moved here in 1991. Nolan’s depth of experience in news and marketing helped the IFP take hold and build an on-line readership that includes 38,000 unique readers who generate 5,000,000 hits on the website monthly. The IFP is supported by local and regional businesses and organizations and hosts a stellar cast of regular contributors.

Nolan herself has garnered some impressive kudos in her career, including being the managing editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal, a position she rose to from her start as the paper’s book editor. During her tenure as managing editor, the Courier-Journal won the Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of a tragic bus accident that took the lives of 27 people. The accident was particularly sad as it was the result of a drunk driver running head-long into a bus carrying church members. A 16-year stint with the Island Breeze, a print newspaper serving the Outer Banks, gave Nolan the opportunity to sink her roots in the sand of Hatteras Island, deepening her knowledge of the people, businesses, officials and organizations that are essential to the Island’s identity. With that knowledge, Nolan absorbed the invincible spirit of the place along with its salt-laden air.

As the IFP has grown and prospered, Nolan has found it possible to lend her time and talent to another communication medium, Hatteras Radio (101.5 fm). The fledgling non-profit station has completed its first broadcast year staffed completely by volunteers. Nolan hosts an interview program, “To the Point,” and recently featured an interview with Frank Miller. Co-owner of the Hatterasman Drive-In Restaurant, Miller is a retired Army officer who now heads his own consulting group, RedTiger Intelligence Solutions. Miller and his family are deeply involved in providing opportunities for all veterans and those who are interested in veterans. Nolan’s interview with Miller is a timely tribute to the numerous veterans groups on the Island and comes as the Islands celebrate and commemorate the veterans through the numerous activities scheduled around Veteran’s Day, November 11. Irene Nolan, herself a veteran of print and now digital journalism, continues to serve her adopted community with energy and skill.


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