Remarks inductees prepared for delivery at induction luncheon for the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, April 19, 2005

Six people were inducted into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame in April: Bob Adams, Western Kentucky University's director of student publications and former publisher of weekly newspapers; Gene Clabes, former weekly publisher and former Kentucky Press Association president;Lee Denney of WOMI Radio in Owensboro; Bob Johnson and Bob Schulman, both retired from The Courier-Journal and WHAS; and the late Marguerite McLaughlin, University of Kentucky. For a list of the 136 inductees at 25 inductions, click here.

BOB ADAMS: 'The future of journalism is bright'

First, I want to thank the committee who make the selections. I'm honored to be included among such a distinguished group of people. I'm especially honored because I never expected to be standing here today.

After a session with college folks at the January KPA meeting, Beth Barnes said she needed to speak with me. I doubt if she has ever had anyone react like I did. I think my first question was, “Are you sure?” Then, as I’m prone to do when emotion overtakes me, I probably had to wipe a bit of moisture from my eyes. My next request was for her to send me something in writing -- just so I could be sure before I told anyone else. I said something to Sherry West (Student Publications bookkeeper who was at KPA) but told her not to tell anybody until I could find out if it was really true. I did tell my wife and my mother because I was sure they could keep a secret.

I didn’t hear anything else for about three weeks – or more. Finally, I got an e-mail from Beth that included the date of today’s luncheon. The note said that if I couldn’t make it, we could do it next year. I canceled my reporting class for today. I wasn’t going to take a chance.

I want to introduce some special people here today. My wife Sandy, son Andy and stepchildren - Chad, Justin, Nicole, Tara and Clint Whittington. My brother Bill is here from northwest Minnesota. My mother, who is in an assisted living facility in Minnesota, could not be here. Two people watching from above today, my father and an uncle who were responsible for the scheme that got me to Western in the first place, are undoubtedly taking a break from their storytelling in Heaven and are watching today with pride.

The other thing Beth and the committee didn’t realize was how many people were really being welcomed into the Hall of Fame. The program says six. I beg to differ. Would all of the people who have ties to Western please stand?

Without these people and the many others who couldn’t be here today, I wouldn’t be here either. I don’t dare start thanking people who have made this possible. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention at least two. Dave Whitaker, a member of the Hall of Fame, was one of my mentors. He changed the direction of journalism at Western, and his influence on the College Heights Herald is still part of our culture.

The other person has kept me on task and has kept me from making a lot of mistakes over the years. That’s Jo Ann Thompson, a friend and my right hand for many of her 29 years at Western.

As I said, I can’t start to thank all of the people who have made this possible. But I’d like for Don Collins to stand and represent the former Herald staff members. Don is an editor in the sports department at USA Today. A few years ago, he and Jo Ann started a scholarship in my name at Western and they have raised almost $20,000 to help students with their education. Some of those scholarship recipients may be here today.

I keep mentioning the importance of students to my success. Only a few people really understand what a college newspaper or yearbook adviser really does or the risks involved. Chris Poore, a former Herald editor who is now the student media director here at UK, understands. A college adviser is in a unique situation. It’s the only job that I know of where you turn over your reputation and future – in our case every semester – to a group of 18- to 22-year-old students and hope (and pray) that they will be successful. If they succeed, everybody says you're doing a great job. If they fail, the perception is that you did a lousy job. Thankfully, our students have weighed heavily on the success side.

There’s a lot of concern about the future of journalism. A revered writer in Detroit filed a story about what was supposed to happen, not what happened. A freelance writer reported in the Boston Globe on an event that was canceled. A Los Angeles Times writer admitted mistake after mistake in a recent story. Newspapers are losing readers who have decided they can’t trust what they read.

Let me assure you that the future of journalism is bright, if the students I work with every day are any example. I think Chris would tell you the same thing.

This is all about students. I was thinking over the weekend about today. One question I’m asked more and more these days is “When are you going to retire?” I actually went to a pre-retirement seminar last Saturday. The answer is “I don’t know. The only thing I know for sure is that retirement is closer today that it was 39 years ago when I started at Western. One thing that concerns me is losing contact with the wonderful students I’ve been blessed to work with. If I had retired in 1993 after 27 years, I would not know John Stamper or Kristina Goetz. Shannon Behnken or Ryan Clark. Caroline Lynch or Stephanie Gladney. Brian Moore or Jerry Brewer. And the list goes on. I still have to deal with that issue.

The other question I’ve been asked is what’s the hardest part of my job. It’s not staying until the paper is put to bed at 1 or 2 a.m. twice a week. It’s not facing an angry administrator who really didn’t want his mistakes exposed on the front page of the Herald. Or the history professor who didn’t want his DUI published. It’s not being libeled by your own president who proposed having faculty editors run the College Heights Herald. Thankfully, several people here today helped keep that from happening.

The hardest part of my job is one I’ve never done well. It’s saying goodbye to the students who have become friends. It may be getting easier as I’ve gotten older, but it’s still hard. When it gets easy, I will know it’s time to turn this job over to someone else.

Until then, there’s still a lot to do. One of my goals before I retire is helping Student Publications raise enough money to get into a new Student Publications Building. Our goal is to be there in two years. So there’s still unfinished business.

I could go on for the rest of the afternoon, but the people you’re going to hear from have impressive resumes and have earned their day in the spotlight by their body of work in journalism. My work has depended wholly on others. I thank everybody who contributed. This is your day.

GENE CLABES: 'My love affair with community journalism'

Thank you. It’s a distinct honor to join my colleagues who are also being honored today and those who have been honored before.

When I began traveling this winding path some 42 years ago, as the 18-year-old sports editor of the Henderson Gleaner, there were few who would have bet on me ending up here and being honored in this very special way.

I began as an inexpensive, $50-a-week, and immediately available answer to an employee shortage at the Gleaner. But after a week on the job, I was convinced I had found my life’s calling. Move over, Grantland Rice and Red Smith.

It was there that I began my love affair with community journalism. Perhaps it was the reporting about the lives of real people, in a real place with all the small town social and economic problems that were emerging in the mid-1960s. Maybe it was the pride of having my byline in the newspaper every day and knowing that I had gained some measure of success in my hometown.

As you might imagine, that false sense of “having arrived” didn’t last long. Misspelled names or misquotes have a way of bringing young reporters back to earth. I landed quickly.

It’s always seemed to me that readers take on a special ownership of their community newspapers. People in small towns still talk about “our newspaper.” That was the case in Henderson. Readers were quick to call in a news tip or a subject for a photo. They were not shy about pointing out misstatement of fact, misspelled names or typos.

Once Judy Jenkins, her name was Greenfield back then, answered a call from a concerned reader about typos. Judy, a reporter, who has become the quintessential community columnist, responded, “Yes ma'am. We know about the typos. We put them in to keep that 'hometown flavor'.”

A few months into my tenure the news editor suffered a heart attack at his desk. I was thrust into laying out Page One and writing headlines because no one else on the staff had ever performed those tasks. What a heady experience for an 18-year-old. I found myself putting out page one and the sports page, learning on the job about news judgment and meeting deadlines.

When I met Judy Grisham my second summer at The Gleaner I was a second time smitten. She was a University of Kentucky journalism student who had grown up less than a mile from my home in Henderson. We had never met until that fateful night at the Dairy Queen. Things would never be the same. From that by chance meeting 38 years ago she became Judy Clabes and the rest is still evolving. She’s fond of saying that I wake up in a new world every day. Actually I am fast approaching the point that I am just glad I wake up.

Our sons, Joe and Jake, are here today. Despite my greatest fear that their mother was totally wrong about them turning out to be responsible, productive, gainfully employed citizens, I must say I am very proud of the young men and fathers they have become. Joe and his wife Chris, who is also here today, have given us a wonderful grandson, Drew. Jake and his wife, Tera, who was unable to attend, have given us another very special grandson, Ben.

I know it was fate that brought Judy and me together on that summer night in 1964. From there were launched two careers that were closely intertwined in journalism for most of our 38 years together. We have often mused that it might not have been as much fun, rewarding and sane had we both not had the same interest.

Most of those years centered on community journalism in some fashion. We began our post college days in Evansville, Ind., where the newspapers had strong community ties. It was a place where good, responsible reporting could make a difference. We learned from the late editor of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Michael Grehl, during his editorship of The Evansville Press, a spunky afternoon newspaper.

From there, when Judy was promoted to become the first woman editor of an E. W. Scripps Co. newspaper, we moved to Northern Kentucky. Nepotism rules kept me out of the newsroom, but my other vocational love, horses, occupied my time until, with a group of northern Kentucky businessmen, I purchased the Recorder Newspapers, a group of weeklies with papers in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties.

After three years of growing circulation and developing content, the papers were sold to Community Newspapers in Cincinnati. I stayed on for three years as we grew the three products into 10 and increased circulation from about 5,000 to 50,000 throughout Northern Kentucky.

It was there, where the newspapers were designed for focus on small communities, which Northern Kentucky is filled with (more than 30), that the impact of small town community journalism was driven home most profoundly. Those products gave the towns a sense of community. They provided a format for issues to be discussed on a very local level. We always had letters to the editor which we passionately tried not to cut. And through it all we learned that readers know more than we do.

Community and rural newspapers are a thread that runs so true through this state, perhaps because coverage by metropolitan newspapers is limited. Small newspapers serve a vital role from the mountains to the vast grain farms of West Kentucky. Sometimes the provide information we might be just as well off not knowing.

My friend Ellen Gregory at Preston-Osborne tells the story of an Eastern Kentucky weekly columnist who writes the chicken dinner column for the newspaper. The columnist’s husband mows the cemetery. This particular column ended by saying, “You might have noticed that the cemetery grass wasn’t cut this week. Fred had diarrhea.”

While community and rural journalism has no corner on the market when it comes to characters, it has it share. During my tenure as Kentucky Press Association president, I remember the Rev. Larry Craig, a weekly editor from Western Kentucky, giving his blessing at a noon meal, thanking God “for not making us Hoosiers.”

In closing let me call your attention to the work of the Institute of Rural Journalism and Community Issues, and its interim director Al Cross. Al along with Al Smith, Knight Rider and UK Journalism Director Beth Barnes have begun framing the infrastructure for this important initiative that will help strengthen community journalism in Appalachia. It is efforts like this that will improve rural and community journalism across Kentucky.

Finally, I am please to see that our friends Nick and Nina Clooney are here. Nick is a member of the Hall of Fame. Nick and Nina are usually at the right place at the right time. However, as humorously revealed in his thrice weekly column in the Cincinnati Post last Friday, he and Nina actually came last Tuesday. Thanks for returning.

Also attending is former Gov. Brereton Jones, who seems to always be at the right place at the right time. His vision has led to the formation of the Kentucky Equine Education Project, sorely needed organization devoted to educating Kentuckians about the economic importance of the equine industry in the Commonwealth. It’s my good fortune to serve as Equine Director for KEEP and work closely with the governor. Also here today is Claria Horn Shadwick, KEEP executive director, whose responsibilities includes keeping me pointed in the right direction.

Thank you again for honoring me. I will be eternally grateful for being included as a member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame.

LEE DENNEY: Went to a smaller town 'to make a difference in people's lives'

This certainly debunks the old saying about not being able to fool all of the people all of the time. Actually, this is a very proud moment and a very humbling one.

I am pleased my daughter Leigh Ann, my grandson Adam, and my sister Dora are all here today. When Leigh Ann was born, I was already working in radio and later TV, and it wasn’t a big deal to her. She just figured everybody’s daddy worked in broadcasting. But her little friends apparently were more impressed. One day when she was maybe eight or nine she asked me “Dad, are you somebody?” I don’t remember what I said…but what I should have said was, ‘Yes, dear, I am somebody. I am your father. That will always be the greatest honor I’ll ever receive.’ This is certainly one of my proudest moments. But at the top of the list by far is being in the delivery room at Saint Mary’s Medical Center in Evansville, Ind., for the birth of my grandson nearly 16 years ago. I appreciate your sacrifice to be here, Adam, because I know you had much rather be in school.

My sister Dora has been more than a sibling to me. She has been a lifelong friend. I can honestly say I cannot remember the last time we exchanged cross words, but it had to have been when we were still teenagers. I should have had that kind of relationship with my ex-wives. In life, as in baseball when you go 0 for 3, it’s been a bad day. I have had a bad day when it came to relationships, due to some degree with my lifelong fascination with my beloved and seductive mistress, the news business.

Centertown, Ky., was a town of perhaps 500 people when I grew up there. There were 29 of us in my high school graduating class. My father was a coal miner who managed to send me to college in 1958. I enrolled in what was then Western Kentucky State College, planning to be a high school English teacher. I graduated from Western Kentucky University in 1992. Broadcasting got in the way.

When I decided to make broadcasting my life’s work. My father, a product of the depression and to whom security was everything, proclaimed “Son, you will never amount to a damn thing.” He may not have been too far off target, but I did amount to “something” and this proves it and I ain’t giving it back.

I started in radio as a disc jockey in 1961, but I eventually decided that spinning stacks of wax wasn’t as satisfying as I thought it would be. I switched to television news in Bowling Green as one half of a two-man news department. From there I got the break of my life, being hired by WHAS-TV in Louisville. Later I worked in Evansville twice, Jacksonville, Dayton twice and San Diego, all in television news as an anchor or executive producer. But nowhere did I learn as much and enjoy a job as much as I did my two years at WHAS.

I like the fact I am joining this prestigious circle with this particular group of individuals. I didn’t know Ms. McLaughlin, but I know she played an important role in the UK school of journalism. Bob Adams has a long history of outstanding service to journalism at my alma mater. Gene Clabes was working for an Evansville newspaper when I was an anchorman there and our paths crossed often. Bob Johnson and Bob Schulman were at WHAS-TV during my time there.

In that newsroom were Barney Arnold, Cawood Ledford, Milton Metz, Phyllis Knight, Ken Rowland, Fred Wiche, Glen Bastin, Bob Johnson and Bob Schulman -- all members of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame. What a wonderful opportunity for a green-as-grass kid from Ohio County to learn from pros.

All of these gentlemen and lady, along with Mort Crim, Bob Morse, Hal Stopfel, David George, Bud Harbsmeier, Wayne Perkey and others were so generous in sharing their knowledge and their friendship.

From Bob Schulman I learned one man can have an opinion and still respect the opinions of others. One of the things I learned from Bob Johnson was that a person’s ethics are more important than the story. Bob Johnson has no idea how much I learned from him and he has no idea how much I respected him then, and now.

When Bob wanted to get your attention, or he especially enjoyed a witticism, he would throw a phone book at you. Now in Centertown, the phone book was about this thick … so the Louisville telephone book made quite an impression on me.

I have tried to learn from everyone along the way, and I have tried to pass along what I have learned to the next generation, which in turn is sharing that passion and knowledge to the newest wave of journalists. So, Bob, the things you learned as a young man and taught to me are still being practiced in newsrooms all over this country.

Twenty years ago I realized that I would be happiest in a smaller-size market near my family and where I could become involved in the community and make a difference in people’s lives, including mine. I even ran for political office about eight years ago, the Daviess County Fiscal Court. I would have won, too, but one of the other candidates got more votes. I like to think it had less to do with the voter’s dislike for my politics, but rather their desire to keep me on the air.

While I certainly enjoyed the excitement of a big story in a big market, I have never regretted my decision to make Owensboro my adopted home town.

I realized just how much I love this profession after I moved back home to Owensboro when I realized it isn’t the market size or the medium that determines success and happiness. It is doing the best job you can where ever you are. Your listeners, your viewers, your readers deserve nothing less.

As I near the end of my time at the podium and my time in this profession, let me say it has been a rewarding journey, these 44 years. I have lived on both coasts, and a lot of great places in between. I have reported on a lot of interesting people, both famous and infamous, as well as ordinary folks who had done extraordinary things. I have worked with and worked for some wonderfully talented and dedicated folks. Many have remained close friends for decades.

I don’t know what kind of an English teacher I would have made, but apparently I made the right career choice for me because I still look forward to going to work every morning. While my bank account doesn’t reflect it, I am a wealthy man. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

BOB JOHNSON: The importance of newspapers, and their owners

What I'm about to say may sound quaint to those of you who grew up with computers.

I've got a thing about newspapers. The first thing I do each morning is to retrieve The Courier-Journal from the front steps. I enjoy reading newspapers. I like the feel of a newspaper in my hands, and there are stacks of partially read newspapers, mainly the single copies of The New York Times that I buy several times a week, hidden around the house. For those of you who think I must be mired hopelessly in the age of hot type, I also read the Washington Post's daily report on politics via e-mail, a point I would have made even if Len Downie weren't here with us today.

I'd like to say a few words about how this came about and how it got me into the business.

I'm old enough to have clear memories of the day Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941. I didn't understand what had happened that Sunday, a few weeks past my sixth birthday, but from the reaction of the adults, I knew it was something terrible.

Over the next few years, as I learned to read, I started looking at the headlines, the maps and the photograms in the newspaper that came to the house. That paper was the Chicago Daily News and through its pages I began to understand the war.

At best, I have vague memories of the war years but I clearly recall the final months: FDR's death, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and finally, the war's end.

I kept reading my paper. Simple reports in elementary school were cribbed from page-one headlines. The more decks in the head, the more detail in my reports.

I also got a taste of homegrown politics. When an uncle ran for office in Oak Park, a Chicago suburb, the lace tablecloth came off my grandmother's dining room table, the women in the family addressed envelopes in the perfect handwriting that seemed to come with a parochial school education and the kids -- I was one of them -- would drop in an emery board and add a stamp.

Mass mailing, 1940s style.

I listened to the Truman-Dewey election returns on radio in 1948 and saw Eisenhower campaign for his first term as president at the DuPage County Courthouse in Wheaton in 1952. That fall, I started reporting high school sports for a suburban weekly. I was 16 and the job paid 10 bucks a week.

In 1956, the Democrats came to Chicago to nominate Adlai Stevenson for a second time. Passes to the convention at the International Amphitheater were not hard to get -- security was not much of a worry back then -- and I got to see some of the proceedings at what seemed to be a very great

Four years later, the Republicans were in Chicago to nominate Nixon for his run against JFK. Barry Goldwater made his famous speech challenging conservatives to take back their party -- which they surely did -- and Herbert Hoover, vilified as president for his ineffectual handling of the Great Depression and ultimately rehabilitated by President Truman, made his last appearance on the national stage. I covered the convention as a reporter for WHAS Radio.

I had come to Louisville for what I was certain would be a short stay. But I liked the job, enjoyed the town -- a good pace to raise as family, as they say -- and gradually came to know the state: a beautiful, intriguing place full of contradictions and heartbreak.

There was something special about the job that I didn't grassp immediately. Longtime Louisville residents helped define it for me. I was lucky, they would say, to be working for the Binghams -- not for the stations or later, for the newspaper -- but for the family. That was the heart of it: a long,
satisfying career at a family operation that defined the was news was covered in the region and laid out a progressive agenda that helped drag Kentucky out of stagnation.

In April, 1978, I finally got my first newspaper job as a city desk reporter at The Courier-Journal. I was 42 and had been in town for nearly 20 years. That same year, my newspaper, the Daily News, folded, but I was now at home at The Courier-Journal.

The following year, the Courier sent me out as political writer, a statewide beat that came with great latitude to develop sources and produce stories. David Hawpe, then the M.E., gave me simple orders which I will quote verbatim: "Scorched earth."

The newspaper's state staff was filled with strong, experienced reporters, and the editors back in Louisville held the reins lightly. There was nothing better than to head out in the state for a week or reporting. In 1980, Willie Nelson was on the radio singing "On The Road Again" and I sang along with him.

Frequently, I'd end up in Lexington with other reporters on Al Smith's "Comment On Kentucky." We'd review the news of week, then continue the discussion over dinner just down the road at the Merrick Inn -- a hell of a way to end the week.

I spent nine years on the beat before handing it off to Al Cross. He did it for 16 years. Unbelievable.

Today, no one covers politics statewide for The Courier-Journal, there has been no one in the Lexington [news] bureau for two and one-half years and it's tough to hear the anguish of veteran reporters who must deal with the top-down agendas imposed by supervising editors imported from small outposts in the corporate chain.

A postscript: A funny thing happened to me after I gave up the political beat. Dammned if they didn't make me an editor.

Thank you all.

BOB SCHULMAN: Let's have more reporting on media meetings

Along with earnest thanks, let me voice my pleasure that this is not also a posthumous recognition.

I also want to express my relief to the Hall of Fame selectors for overlooking the fact that I am also not a native Kentuckian. Had I been, I would have missed what took me into the news business.

Growing up in New York City’s Bronx, I remember how my Romanian-born, electrical-engineer dad had an arrangement with his colleagues where he worked downtown. Each of them would give dad his copy of their newspaper to go with dad’s New York Times. Each night he would walk from the subway bringing me a copy of the world, the sun, the Daily News, the Mirror, the Graphic, the Herald Tribune, the Telegram. How could i have ended up any differently?

Fact is, my arrival in Kentucky in 1968 gave me the opportunity for an intriguing journalistic discovery.

I was aware of the Bingham tradition, of course. But having earlier pursued newspaper, magazine and TV reporting in St. Louis, Chicago and Seattle -- presumably big-time stuff — it was a surprise to find Kentucky print and, yes, broadcast news, steps above what I had known in some of those other places — steps above in ethics, in standards and in that much discussed journalistic drive — that fire in the belly.

I saw also that gutsiness, along with accuracy and fairness levels, had spread widely across the commonwealth.

Eventually, in a change that dispelled the feeling that big-chain ownership always spells a downturn in quality, Knight-Ridder ownership of the Herald-Leader lifted that paper into Grade A ranks. As for Gannett, the Courier-Journal may not be nationally what it was under the Binghams, but frequent solid reporting and investigative series , together with strenuous efforts for real fairness and balance on its op-ed pages, show The C-J still has plenty of what deserves respect.

To be sure, all this high-quality talk is still relative. Celebrity-mindedness, and too much pandering to what the news customers want, seems to me to pollute the Kentucky media well.

Currently, with basketball accurately counted a Kentucky religion, putting sports news on page one ahead of Iraq or state budget woes constitutes violation of the separation of church and state!

All too many of our top TV stations so automatically lead with routine crime news that it appears that Kentucky is gripped by a continuous crime wave. Viewers are subjected to endless repeats of old video, and to newscast teasers about upcoming stories that don’t promptly show (like interruptive foreplay). And then there are those young, on-air stars who unwittingly mangle the language and think news in depth consists of rip and read and being ‘live’.

Still, strong encouragement comes from the recent years’ experiences I and other Kentucky journalists have had working with lawyers and the state courts to clarify mutual misunderstandings.

From the smallest Kentucky newspapers to the largest, and from TV and radio news ranks, reporters and news editors and directors have given many intensive, free-wheeling hours to meet with judges and lawyers for candid conversation about how to improve.

How many of you here know about that? How much of the public is aware that, in these sessions, many of our top news people are showing a conscientiousness that the Limbaughs and Coulters and O’Reillys of the world deny ever happens?

How many know the self-searching concerns about public disenchantment with the media that were aired all through this past year at national press and broadcast meetings, including one in Kentucky?

The problem is a weird journalistic tradition that passes up general reporting of what goes on in sessions in which news people are involved. This habit of downplaying or ignoring news that has media looking at themselves is a nationwide ailment.

Eliminate this habit -- begin general reporting, for example, of what is being said that’s newsworthy on this UK journalism day — and we may begin to make a dent in the worrisome public distrust of all of us in the media. We must do more, much more, to let our audiences know how often we agonize about how we play our role.

Nowadays, when people ask me if I’m retired, I answer ‘No, I am unemployed.’ I don’t understand how anyone can ‘retire’ from the exciting and fulfilling exercise of curiosity and fact-finding that have motivated Kentucky journalists.

In Wildcat country, I cannot resist noting that while curiosity (and lucky baskets) may have killed some cats, the kind of curiosity that sniffs out news and pursues threats to the public interest is one that justifies our devotion. May those of us lucky enough to be in this profession or craft or business (or whatever you want to call it) long continue that kind of pursuit!

Again, thank you.


Institute for Rural Journalism & Community Issues
School of Journalism and Telecommunications, College of Communications & Information Studies
122 Grehan Building, University of Kentucky, Lexington KY 40506-0042
Phone 859-257-3744 - Fax 859-323-3168

Al Cross, director al.cross@uky.edu