The News & Record wrote a column about a woman who worked for decades as its queen of societal and cultural events. Martha Long’s long career reminds us of our own Eleanor Powell Hinds, who stuck around these offices until just four years ago. Many of the wonderful things said about Martha Long could also be applied to Miss Ellie as she was affectionately known by the younger ladies in the news department.
GREENSBORO — A woman who helped break boundaries as a female journalist and who many in the community got to know through her detailed writing of others died Wednesday.
Martha Leigh Johnson Long, 89, of Greensboro was a long-time features writer and columnist for the News & Record, best known for writing about the social and cultural events in the city.
“To appear in her column was something special,” said Allen Johnson, who was the assistant managing editor of features from 1987 to 1992, during part of Long’s tenure at the newspaper. “She was very well-connected and knew lots of people throughout Greensboro. She had a way with people.”
Long first began working for the News & Record in 1948, shortly after graduating from Greensboro College. At the time the paper was still two entities, the Greensboro Daily News and the Greensboro Record. Long worked in what was called the “women’s department.” She stayed with the newspaper until 1992, when she worked part-time. Long retired from the News & Record in April 1994.
“She was willing to broaden her circle of people, and her columns grew more diverse over the years,” Johnson said. “She traveled in a larger social circle and expanded her horizon to make room for more people.”
Long was known for the accuracy of her reporting, treating people respectfully and choosing the events she wrote about carefully. She always covered the annual Blandwood Ball and Greensboro Symphony Debutantes, Johnson said.
“She was a charmer,” said Irwin Smallwood, former managing editor of the News & Record whose career at the N&R started about the same time as Long’s. “She could go to a debutante ball or a barbecue and be equally at home. She was extremely friendly and people took a liking to her.”
Teresa Prout, who served as Long’s editor in the 1980s, recalls Long as a woman who knew how to have a good time and who occasionally would get a twinkle in her eye.
“She was a heck of a lot of fun,” Prout said. “She had an outrageous sense of humor and could tell some tales. She knew the stories behind the stories. She never took herself so seriously that it wasn’t fun to be with her.”
Prout said Long was also important as a female reporter.
“Female journalists in her generation really brought the industry along,” Prout said. “She could tell you about just about everybody in Greensboro and knew journalists to the tip of her toes.”
She also had gumption.
Former News & Record Managing Editor John Robinson was assistant city editor during part of Long’s tenure. He recalled Long’s standing up for a column she wrote when it needed to be edited for space in the newspaper.
“A party was not a success unless it was mentioned by Martha in her column,” Robinson said. “She didn’t go to all of them, but people would call her. You were blessed if she went to your party. People wanted to be mentioned in her column.”