January 24, 2001: Headlines: Journalism: Peace Corps Giants: Alzheimer's Disease: Obituaries: Salina Journal: The passing of the last country editor

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By Admin1 (admin) (pool-141-157-13-244.balt.east.verizon.net - on Saturday, January 22, 2005 - 12:01 am: Edit Post

The passing of the last country editor

The passing of the last country editor

The passing of the last country editor

The Salina Journal

Bob Wellington was the last of them -- the final survivor of a generation of Kansas editors who gave our state a special place in American journalism.

Editor and publisher of the Ottawa Herald for more than 25 years, Wellington died a few weeks ago. His memorial service drew journalists from around the state to honor a man who was a precious link to the past.

It was a personal loss for me.

Bob was among the group of bright young men -- all World War II combat veterans -- that Kansas newspaper mogul Jack Harris assembled at the Hutchinson News in the late 1940s and early 1950s: Whit Austin, who became editor of the Salina Journal; John McCormally, who wrote editorials on legislative reapportionment that helped the News earn the Pulitzer Prize; and my father, Stuart Awbrey, who headed Harris Enterprise papers in Hutchinson, Garden City and Burlington, Iowa.

They were the giants on whose shoulders journalists of my generation stand.

They called themselves "country editors," a description borrowed from William Allen White. Indeed, Austin, McCormally and Awbrey worked for White in his famous journalism boot camp in Emporia, taking from the master a deep love of people and community.

White's philosophy was simple. As he watched people walk by the Gazette office, he realized that each of them had a unique story -- a tale of joy and sorrow that if shared with others would make readers more sensitive and more compassionate toward the human condition.

In our present age of instant information, of talking heads and Internet anonymity, White's principle is often ignored because too many journalists, especially in the national media, have lost touch with the everyday events and emotions -- the "human juices" -- that connect people to one another.

Yet, the country editor tradition still thrives in Kansas, and it is one reason for optimism that journalism will not simply become information processing controlled by giant media corporations.

One of my favorite pastimes is reading weekly and smaller daily newspapers in Watson Library at the University of Kansas. Unlike the larger metro dailies in Kansas City, Topeka and Wichita that report to corporate headquarters in California or Georgia, most of the smaller papers are locally owned or part of newspaper groups controlled by Kansans.

Most of them publish the kind of hometown news that comes only from editors with deep roots in their community. How some of them survive given the woeful economy in parts of rural and small-town Kansas is a mystery to me. It must be through a combination of love for newspapers, reader and advertiser loyalty and savvy business sense.

These Kansas editors are a vital part of American democracy. In an age of mega-media mergers, where newspapers are simply another commodity in a corporate portfolio, country editors serve as the conscience of the profession, as reminders of what journalism should be.

They are the last purists in an industry that increasingly caters to power and that perceives the bottom line as the only standard of success. To them, news is not simply the doings of the rich and famous or a natural disaster in some faraway place; news is the weekly meeting of a women's club, the high school basketball game, the arrival of a new doctor in town.

Early next month, several dozen Kansas journalists will gather at KU for William Allen White Day, which serves as a family reunion of editors and reporters who care passionately about this state and its people.

This year, Bob Wellington won't be among them. But his legacy lives -- in each editorial on a community issue, in each story about a neighbor who cares for others.

When this story was posted in October 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Kerry reaches out to Returned Volunteers Kerry reaches out to Returned Volunteers
The Kerry campaign wants the RPCV vote. Read our interview with Dave Magnani, Massachusetts State Senator and Founder of "RPCVs for Kerry," and his answers to our questions about Kerry's plan to triple the size of the Peace Corps, should the next PC Director be an RPCV, and Safety and Security issues. Then read the "RPCVs for Kerry" statement of support and statements by Dr. Robert Pastor, Ambassador Parker Borg, and Paul Oostburg Sanz made at the "RPCVs for Kerry" Press Conference.

RPCV Carl Pope says the key to winning this election is not swaying undecided voters, but persuading those already willing to vote for your candidate to actually go to the polls.

Take our poll and tell us what you are doing to support your candidate.

Finally read our wrap-up of the eight RPCVs in Senate and House races around the country and where the candidates are in their races.

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PCOL sits down for an extended interview with Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez. Read the entire interview from start to finish and we promise you will learn something about the Peace Corps you didn't know before.

Plus the debate continues over Safety and Security.
Schwarzenegger praises PC at Convention Schwarzenegger praises PC at Convention
Governor Schwarzenegger praised the Peace Corps at the Republican National Convention: "We're the America that sends out Peace Corps volunteers to teach village children." Schwarzenegger has previously acknowledged his debt to his father-in-law, Peace Corps Founding Director Sargent Shriver, for teaching him "the joy of public service" and Arnold is encouraging volunteerism by creating California Service Corps and tapping his wife, Maria Shriver, to lead it. Leave your comments and who can come up with the best Current Events Funny?
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Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and can you come up with a Political Funny?

Read the stories and leave your comments.

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Story Source: Salina Journal

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Journalism; Peace Corps Giants; Alzheimer's Disease; Obituaries



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