2017 Hall of Fame inductees named

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Four newspaper people, including the former publisher of one of Missouri’s longest family-owned dailies, will be inducted in September into Missouri Press Association’s Newspaper Hall of Fame.

The induction reception and banquet are scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 29, during the 151st annual MPA Convention at University Plaza in downtown Springfield. This will be the 27th group to be inducted into the Newspaper Hall of Fame, which was established by MPA in 1991.

This year’s inductees are the late Kenneth G. Meuser, former publisher of the Monett Times; the late Arthur Aull, former publisher of the Lamar Democrat; Vicki Russell, past MPA president and former publisher of the Columbia Daily Tribune; and Bob Mitchell, former publisher of the Cassville Democrat.

Hall of Fame inductees or their families receive Pinnacle Awards in honor of the inductees’ service to the Missouri newspaper industry and their communities. Inductees’ plaques will join the permanent display of inductees in the MPA office in Columbia and in the student lounge in Lee Hills Hall at the Missouri School of Journalism.

— Kenneth Meuser —

Kenneth Meuser ran the Monett Times for 30 years, beginning in 1942, during which time he served as a voice for the community, including calling for economic development and pushing for better schools, streets and all things that make a community good for the people who live there. Meuser’s rural daily, which already served two counties and was located in the county seat of neither, became something of an oddity at the time he took over as he dropped its affiliation with the Associated Press and ran a totally local newspaper.

Meuser also bucked hiring trends of the time by hiring many women. At the Times, Meuser was known as an honorable man always striving for excellence, truth and integrity in all facets of the newspaper’s operation, from advertising to the news. His exuberance for the life of the daily newspaper business was contagious, with his employees learning that community involvement was just as important to keeping a daily newspaper running as anything else.

Even when Monett’s residents could not be home to read the newspaper, Meuser ensured they stayed abreast of the day’s events by sending air mail copies of the Times (for free) to every local member of the Armed Forces serving in Vietnam. Even after his retirement, Meuser remained a positive force for the Monett community until his death in February 2000, at the age of 90.

— Arthur Aull —

Arthur Aull edited and published the Lamar Democrat from 1900 until his death in 1948, captivating the community with his all-the-news-is-fit-to-print style of journalism. The newspaper boasted a circulation of 4,000, substantially more than the population of Lamar, with readers in all 48 states, as well as in England and Canada. Publishing a daily newspaper in a town the size of Lamar meant that Aull included virtually every single happening, even some items that would not be considered newsworthy or would be an invasion of privacy by today’s standards.

Lamar was one of the nation’s smallest towns to support a daily newspaper (let alone two, with the Lamar Republican being the other). Aull was the Democrat’s only reporter, writing an estimated 5,000 words per day and publishing some 14,000 issues. Featured in stories by Publisher’s Auxiliary, the Chicago Daily News, Life, Time, American Magazine and Harper’s, Aull was praised and his reporting described as “straight-forward,” “ripsnorting,” and “ingenuous.”

With a keen interest in community affairs, Aull supported numerous projects he deemed worthy; served two terms on the Lamar school board; helped organize a chamber of commerce; and considered paving Lamar’s massive square as his greatest civic achievement. During the Great Depression, he was appointed to the Barton County Relief Committee that was charged with relieving the stress and destitution caused by unemployment.

After Aull’s death, his wife, Luanna, became publisher and their eldest daughter, Madeleine, became editor. She managed to keep the newspaper going in her father’s style for another 24 years before selling the Democrat to Missouri Secretary of State James Kirkpatrick and his son, Don Kirkpatrick.

— Vicki Russell —

Vicki Russell served as associate publisher and then publisher of the Columbia Daily Tribune from 1990 until the newspaper was sold to GateHouse Media in 2016. A Missouri School of Journalism graduate, she worked as an assistant instructor at the J-school from 1974-76 and from 1976-77 she was an information specialist and ag editor for MU’s College of Agriculture and Extension Division.

In 1977, Russell became publisher of The Fulton Sun, where she remained until 1989. In 1990, she became associate publisher of the Tribune, while Hank Waters III served as publisher (the two would later marry in 1994). In 2010, she took over as publisher of the Tribune and when the Tribune was sold in 2016, the newspaper had been owned and operated by the Waters family for 115 years.

In the community, Russell has been involved heavily in areas of commerce and education, including serving on the boards of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, the Boone County Agricultural and Mechanical Society (the local fair board), Stephens College and the Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre.

Her career accomplishments include serving as a member of the MPA Board of Directors from 2002 until her presidency in 2009; and as founding president of the Missouri Society of Newspaper Editors in 1990-91. She is currently the Missouri Press Foundation Board president, a position she has held for three years.

— Bob Mitchell —

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat, starting as editor in the early 1950s, and the last in a long line of family owners for the weekly newspaper started in 1871. Even though Mitchell sold the Democrat in 1995, he remains actively involved, writing a weekly column, which is always widely read by the community.

At the time he was starting out, Mitchell’s Democrat was in a crosstown war with the Cassville Republican, a rivalry that would continue until the Republican closed its doors in 1984. Many consider Mitchell’s great work at the Democrat as a testament to why the formerly-Democratic (now non-partisan) Democrat was able to beat out the Republican in a part of the state that leans heavily to the political right.

Considered to be the consummate weekly newspaper publisher, Mitchell kept abreast of industry changes, such as making the switch to offset printing in the 1960s, as new processes became more widely adopted. He was also active in the Cassville community, including serving as chairman of the Industrial Development Corporation for 16 years when two major employers came to town.

Most recently for Mitchell, an April 2017 ceremony saw him inducted into the Regional Media Hall of Fame at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin.

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