Nunnelley graduated from the University of Kentucky and from Howard College in 1956. She began her career in journalism in the 1960s and spent 30 years working at The Birmingham News, and was promoted to managing editor in 1992. In 2000 she was one of the founding board members of the Alabama Center for Open Government.
Nunnelley left the News in 2001 to join the Associated Press Media Editors Association as a project director. While there she developed the "NewsTrain" training program and led the National Credibility Roundtables Project. She compiled the 2006 book, Building Trust in the News and later served on APME's national board of directors.
In 2009 Nunnelley left APME and began working as a freelance editor and consultant through her CN Projects company. She taught a graduate course for the University of Alabama's Department of Journalism.
In 2014 Nunnelley co-founded the non-profit Alabama Initiative for Independent Journalism with Mark Kelly and Jerome Lanning, which publishes the online newspaper BirminghamWatch. She served as its first executive director until retiring in 2021.
Nunnelley died on December 3, 2023.
- Nunnelley, Carol (2006) Building Trust in the News: 101+ Good Ideas for Editors from Editors. Associated Press Managing Editors Association
- Nunnelley, Carol (2012) Janie Shores: Trailblazing Supreme Court Justice. Alabama Roots Biography Series. Seacoast Publishing ISBN 9781594210815
- Nunnelley, Carol, editor (2016) Cussing Dixie, Loving Dixie: Fifty Years of Commentary by H. Brandt Ayers. University of Alabama Press ISBN 9780817389307
- "AIIJ Announces Retirement of Founding Executive Director Carol Nunnelley." (October 4, 2021) BirminghamWatch
- Carol Nunnelley on Linkedin.com