By Carol Stark
In today’s culture, the words “journalist” and “media” conjure up images of talking heads, the Washington press corps or a loud, shouting mass of reporters waving microphones and notepads.
I’m still fortunate enough to see something quite different.
I see a husband and wife who work side by side to put out a small weekly newspaper. Their children have grown up in the office. They are familiar faces in their community, and they work day and night to provide their readers with a newspaper filled with local features and advertisements.
I see entrepreneurs who rolled with the punches when home-owned papers were bought by larger companies. Instead of jumping ship for greener pastures, they stayed. While the ownership might have changed, the philosophy of the paper stays intact.
I also recall the trailblazers and the teachers.
I see people I respect and care about and who, in turn, reached into their own pockets when so many at my newspaper needed help after they lost their homes in the May 22, 2011, tornado.
In my world, journalists have names and faces, and they’re people I call friends. I do not tack on an expletive in front of their names.
Two weeks ago I attended the Missouri Press Association’s Hall of Fame ceremonies and wiped away a few tears when Stephen Oldfield, steadied by his wife, Linda, stood for a scant few moments in front of the microphone. A relatively young man, Steve had a stroke in 2007. Did he and Linda think about shutting down The Adrian Journal and The Drexel Star?. Probably. Many times over. But they didn’t. With the help of family and friends, the high school sweethearts continue today with their work at the paper.
Steve’s friends helped him down from the stage and into his wheelchair while the auditorium of journalists jumped to their feet to applaud him.
The Oldfields’ story tugs at the heartstrings. But so does the story of Tom Miller Sr. While he was in kindergarten, Miller caught newspapers off his father’s newspaper press in Milford, Iowa. Later, his father, James Miller Sr., bought The Washington Missourian, an excellent newspaper that produces thought-provoking editorial pages.
He served his country in Korea, and when his father died, he became co-publisher with his brother, Bill.
Tom is described by his peers as a man who set an example for all through his honesty, integrity and generous spirit.
Closer to home, Dave Berry, vice president of Neighbor News of Missouri and publisher of The Bolivar Herald-Free Press, was also among the inductees. He’s proud to be called a community newspaperman.
I’m just proud to call him my friend.
William Aden French, who died in 1980, was recognized at the ceremony as reaching that dream we journalists all dream of. He also wrote books about his love of life in the Ozarks. He was publisher of The Current Ware in Eminence from 1937 to 1969.
The press association also honors those who are our teachers.
R. Dean Mills, dean of the University of Missouri School of Journalism since 1989, actually was one of those Washington correspondents. He covered the Watergate scandal, Vice President Spiro T. Agnew’s resignation and the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.
But later, after he put aside his reporter hat, he restored community newspaper management classes to the university’s curriculum and hired faculty members who had newspaper backgrounds. He also launched the nationally known Reynolds Journalism Institute in 2008. One of the university’s faculty members said: “Ethics ... truth, trust, transparency and integrity are strongly developed in him.”
It’s true that some in the media have rightfully earned your mistrust and disdain. But many are out there working hard for you. They work for far more than a paycheck. They do it because they understand the value of a free press.
National Newspaper Week begins today. It’s because of these fine people and thousands more like them that I am proud to be called a journalist.
Carol Stark is editor of The Joplin Globe. Address correspondence to her, The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Carol Stark on Twitter @carolstark30.