Retired AP reporter Mike Cochran shares some of his experiences with the audience as he accepts Hall of Fame induction from Texas Newspaper Foundation President Larry Jackson.
Debi Ryan, publisher of the Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel, accepts the Hall of Fame award on behalf of the Victor B. Fain family. Former publisher Gary Borders (far left) was also hand to help Texas Newspaper Foundation President Larry Jackson make the presentation.
Accepting the Hall of Fame award for John C. Taylor from TFN President Larry Jackson are daughters Beth Taylor (center) and Lisa Weinstein.
Veteran newspaper publisher and Southern Newspapers, Inc. President Dolph Tillotson accepts the award commemorating his Hall of Fame induction from Texas Newspaper Foundation President Larry Jackson.
GALVESTON — Unique local coverage, important to both readers and advertisers, is key to the future of community newspapers, Texas Press Association members were told at the annual Midwinter Conference and Trade Show in January.
Overcoming adversity — both from market factors and during natural disasters in the communities newspapers serve — was the theme of the “Come Hell or High Water” conference held in Galveston. The importance of hometown newspapers’ local coverage was also a central theme of the sales programs presented during the conference.
Hall of Fame Induction
Service, engagement and quality were points noted by Institute for Rural Journalism Director Al Cross in his address on the future of community journalism at the annual Texas Newspaper Foundation Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
His message to Texas journalists: “Keep public service at the top of your mind, engage with your audience, defend journalism, prove your value by giving your neighbors coverage they can get nowhere else, and make sure that it is quality coverage.”
Unique local content is important to both readers and advertisers, Cross said, adding that local news coverage is the reason community journalism has been the healthiest part of the traditional news business. “Now that you are in competition with every other information source, that content has to be quality content,” he said.
Cross called on community newspapers to do a better job of helping readers understand “what real journalism is and the difference in the three types of media:
1. Strategic media, which could also be called message media, essentially, public relations, advertising and marketing.
2. News media, the essence of which is a discipline of facts and verification.
3. Social media, which has little if any discipline, and no discipline of verification.”
Cross stressed the terms “media” and “news media” mean different things.
“We need to use the phrase, not the word, to remind people that journalism is different – we have a discipline and a mission: searching for truth to serve the public,” he said.
“We need to explain these things to our readers, and to former readers and prospective readers, using social media and other platforms. We need to explain how we go about our work, and invite readers’ involvement and feedback. Ask them what they want to read about and what they think of your work,” he said.
“As you defend journalism, you don’t have to defend the networks or the big papers,” he said. “You can use some of their failings to explain what journalism is supposed to be, but you are journalists, or employers of journalists, so it is in your interest to defend journalism — and to help people understand that it has standards and principles, and that it is to be held accountable, just as it holds others accountable.”
Members of the 2018 class of inductees to the Texas Newspaper Hall of Fame are legendary AP reporter Mike Cochran, who covered the most significant events in Texas history during the last four decades of the 20th century; Dolph Tillotson, a veteran newspaper publisher and president of Southern Newspapers, Inc., a group of 15 community newspapers; and two community publishers who played significant roles in local progress — Victor B. Fain of Nacogdoches and John C. Taylor of Seguin.
Fain, who spent his career of more than 50 years with the Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel, 40 years as publisher, died at the age of 84 in 2000. Taylor, who owned and published the Seguin Gazette for 21 years, died in 2014 at the age of 88.
“For more than 44 years — first for the Associated Press, then the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Cochran recorded Texas history in the making — the Kennedy assassination, the Sharpstown scandal, the trials of Cullen Davis and Billie Sol Estes, the Gemini and Apollo space flights, the University of Texas sniper and Southwest Conference football,” Cochran’s colleague, former AP reporter Carol Poirot, wrote.
“He was everywhere that news happened,” said Larry Jackson, TNF president and emcee for the ceremonies. “He just had the ability to be there and come up with the greatest stories imaginable. He was a master storyteller.”
Accompanied by family and friends, including his wife Sondra, Cochran responded to the accolades with emotion and humor. He shared some stories with the audience, including his experiences covering the Kennedy assassination in Dallas.
SNI President Tillotson, who has been in the newspaper business for almost 50 years as a general manager, publisher and president for two community newspaper companies, joked that he “used to think you had to be dead to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, so this was out of the blue and completely unexpected.”
As publisher of the Galveston County Daily News for almost 30 years, Tillotson was known for his work leading the newspaper’s coverage during Hurricane Ike in 2008 and as a leader and community builder during the city’s recovery.
Reflecting on his career and sharing pride for the work and community coverage of SNI member newspapers, Tillotson said he was flattered and honored to receive the award, “but the biggest payoff for my career, much more than any honor or award, has been the opportunity to work with so many wonderful people.”
Tillotson also expressed appreciation to his family for support throughout his career.
SNI’s member newspapers were well represented at the induction ceremonies. The publishers were joined by SNI CEO Lisa Walls.
Jackson noted that honoree Taylor was a personal friend he knew through work in TPA. In addition to serving as president in 1975, Taylor served on the TPA building committee, assisting in the search for the building that became the TPA headquarters in 1971. The facility on Fifth Street at West Avenue in downtown Austin was sold in 2014.
In August 1960, Taylor, who owned the Seguin Gazette from 1954 until 1979, and his wife, Juanita, represented Texas on a National Editorial Association study mission to Europe and behind the Iron Curtain. Taylor wrote and published a series of articles about the trip and lessons of communism.
During the association’s 100th anniversary in 1980, Taylor served as historian and wrote most of the history included in a commemorative book published that year. Following his retirement from the Seguin Gazatte, he served on the TPA staff as director of the Texas Newspaper Advertising Bureau.
Accepting the award for Taylor were daughters Beth Taylor and Lisa Weinstein. They were accompanied at the ceremonies by many other family members.
Two publishers who followed Fain at the helm of the Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel were on hand to honor him. Current Publisher Debi Ryan accepted the award on behalf of the Fain family. She was introduced by Gary Borders, who served as publisher from 1993 to 2003. Both worked with Fain early in their careers.
Fain was a 1936 graduate of what was then known as Stephen F. Austin State Teachers College. He started working part-time at the Sentinel in high school, and the only time Fain was absent from the paper was during his service in the Navy during World War II.
He served as TPA president in 1961-62 after serving on the board of directors, in committee posts and as president of the North and East Texas Press Association.
He was active in his community, where he was known as a leader and positive force in the city’s progress in the post-World War II era.
Jackson noted that Fain had a favorite saying many of the journalists he mentored over years heard often: “What’s good for Nacogdoches is good for The Daily Sentinel.”
More than boosterism, it reflected economic reality. When the community prospers, local businesses prosper. Fain knew that community newspapers are essential small-town businesses with unique abilities to help promote growth. Conversely, newspapers are equipped to expose and fight what is not good for the community, such as corruption, injustice and failure of essential services.