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Front Page » March 30, 2004 » Opinion » Journalistic excellence
Published 3,826 days ago

Journalistic excellence


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By KEN LARSON
Sun Advocate publisher

In my almost 30 years working for community newspapers I have met and worked with some incredible editors and publishers. This past weekend I attended the Utah Press Association convention.

The organization has served Utah since 1893, one of the oldest on going professional groups in the state. For many years I have tried to emulate and model older publishers and editors using them as examples of the kinds of men and women that I strive to become. I have to admit that I often feel that I fall short of their standards, insight and talents.

Each year at the UPA convention we honor an outstanding journalist who has paved the way in community journalism. This year Arthur C. Deck, who served as executive editor of the Salt Lake Tribune for over 30 years, ending a very successful tenure in 1981. He pushed his staff to produce good work and one example used was his incredible foresight in 1956 when two airliners collided over the Grand Canyon, killing all 128 people on board. Sensing what had happened even before authorities knew what had gone on, Deck dispatched a reporter and a photographer to northern Arizona and mobilized the newsroom to collect vital background information. The resulting coverage garnered the Tribune its greatest accolade since the publication began in 1871 - the Pulitzer Prize for deadline reporting.

Deck's career covered 53 years, through the Depression, World War II, the Cold War and detente with the world's two communist powers, the Soviet Union and China, both of which he visited as a leading figure in the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

Following his death, shortly after his retirement, the Tribune was quoted, "Art Deck implanted the essentials of quality newspapering on hundreds of young reporters, fledgling deskmen and even senior editors ... As a lifetime journalist, he steadfastly claimed and defended legitimate rights of a free people and press. In return for these cherished principals, he demanded consistent responsibility, even unusual restraint, on the part of his newspaper and expected the same of other media. That is Art Deck's valuable legacy."

I didn't know Art Deck, but I have had the fortunate opportunity to work side by side with people like Herb Watts, a Montana journalist for over 40 years; Amy Bedford, owner of the Pendleton East Oregonian, who still at 90 years old comes to work every day; people like Dwight Tracy, and Greg Stevens, all mentors who have shaped my career and kept me on track.

I was asked to introduce the former presidents of the UPA at the breakfast Saturday morning and Utah has an unusual high number of third and fourth generation news people. Laurie Wynn, outgoing president handed the gavel to Mark Fuellenbach and said that it seemed fitting that her great uncle, William Buys, had served as president of the UPA 100 years ago this year, and here she was, passing the gavel to another uncle. Names like Wallis, Ashby, Claybaugh, Taylor and Dunn are synonymous with Utah newspapers.

These men and women, as community journalists, means concentrating on providing local coverage, most of which have tones that are positive and supportive and others that strive to find community solutions.

I am inspired when I hear the persistence and integrity of great journalists. Today, more than ever, community newspapers have to connect with readers and advertisers, bringing relevance and value to better strategists, better marketers, more focused on our communities and in touch with the wants and needs of current and potential readers.

I am proud to be in a profession that connects people with people, a profession that helps find solutions and is a guardian of truth and community record. For over 112 years the Sun Advocate is still the number one source for supplying information to our county.


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March 30, 2004
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