Friday, July 11, 2014

RIP: John Seigenthaler, an exemplary and inspiring journalist who appreciated weekly papers

John Seigenthaler
John Seigenthaler, who died today at his home in Nashville, was not a rural journalist. But he was an exemplary and inspiring journalist, and he appreciated the contributions and sacrifices of rural and community journalists to the profession he loved and to the cause of open government, for which he crusaded.

In helping present the Tom and Pat Gish Award to the Ezzell family of The Canadian (Tex.) Record in 2007, Seigenthaler said, "I have never been among friends, among journalists, when I have felt more deeply touched by the emotion of being in the presence of people who have . . . committed their lives to tenacity, courage and integrity," the criteria for the award, given by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, publisher of The Rural Blog.

"Weekly journalism is what this country was about at the beginning. Weekly publishers were people of courage, of integrity, and tenacity stood against authority, stood against community evils, against national evils, international problems, took strong positions, and that’s our legacy. That’s MY legacy, and I never worked for a weekly. . . . One place young journalists should be looking for employment, for jobs where there is confidence about a future, is in rural America, where I find less concern about the future than in daily journalism. . . .

"It’s much easier for me, as a daily editor in a major city. There is much less danger of threat, much more chance that I have lawyers to protect me. There is much less likelihood that somebody will explode a bomb beneath my window of shoot into my plate-glass window or burn down our building, than for those who are in rural communities. And when I say I hope I have shown tenacity and courage and integrity, I can’t think of anything in my career that matches what must be those lonely days and nights when a lawsuit is threatened or danger is threatened, when life is threatened, in a rural community."

Seigenthaler concluded, "I think the tradition, the legacy, is best reflected today in rural journalism." For more of his remarks, click here. For his obituary, tributes and funeral information from The Tennessean, go here.

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