Five persons with ties to community newspapers in Missouri will be inducted into the Missouri Newspaper Hall of Fame Sept. 6 during the 147th annual Convention of the Missouri Press Association (MPA) at the Marriott Downtown in Kansas City.
This year’s inductees are the late Henry F. Childers of Troy, the late Robert E. "Bob" Cobb of King City, Jane Duncan Flink of Ashland, Wendell Lenhart of Trenton, and the late Edwin Q. White, a native of Tipton.
Inductees are chosen from among people nominated by friends, associates and family members. Induction is based on a long career of sound, ethical journalism and service to the Missouri newspaper industry and the community.
This will be the 23rd group to be inducted into the Newspaper Hall of Fame, which was established by MPA in 1991.
Inductees or members of their families receive Pinnacle Awards. Plaques with their likenesses are on permanent display in the MPA office in Columbia and in the student lounge in Lee Hills Hall at the Missouri School of Journalism.
Following are brief biographies of the inductees, in alphabetical order.
Henry F. Childers (1859-1934)
Childers devoted more than 50 years of his life to the Troy Free Press in Lincoln County. Except for a few brief periods of work on other newspapers, Childers served the Free Press from its origin in 1878 to his death in 1934. The newspaper became one of the state’s finest weeklies under his ownership.
Childers was born in Washington County, Mo., in 1859, and learned to set type at age 15 for the Chamois Leader. While attending Westminster College in Fulton, he worked for the Fulton Enterprise.
He worked as shop foreman for the Troy Free Press upon its founding in July 1878 by Will and John Knott. Childers, on leave from the Free Press, established The Elsberry Advance in October 1880, and continued with the weekly newspaper until December 1881.
Childers became sole owner of the Troy Free Press in 1882. The content of the Free Press was typical of country newspapers. Emphasis was placed on local news, much of it written by country correspondents, and local advertising. With Childers’ vigorous editorship, the Free Press grew in circulation and content.
Childers editorialized for local improvements, actively supporting bonds for railroad, road and bridge construction. Much credit for early improvements in Lincoln County transportation is given to him. He also wanted to establish a college.
He served as president of the Missouri Press Association in 1909. In 1931, the Missouri School of Journalism awarded Childers and his newspaper the Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism. His printing plant and newspaper press were among the finest in any town the size of Troy.
On his 50 years of service to country journalism, Childers wrote: "I have preferred to give the best I had to my neighbors and friends who have been so loyal to me when I needed friends . . . . While I am sure that I could have made more money elsewhere, there are so many things I have found that are more worthwhile than wealth."
Robert E. "Bob" Cobb (1940 1997)
Doctors said Bob Cobb, born with a crippling condition, Spina Bifida, wouldn’t live more than a year. Instead, he beat all odds and became a respected journalism teacher, editor and newspaper publisher in Northwest Missouri.
Raised in Stanberry, he loved sports and played baseball and basketball, despite his physical deformity and a rather pronounced limp. He was the manager of the football team in high school and later played golf , town-team basketball and pitched fast-pitch softball.
At Northwest Missouri State College in Maryville, he served as student body president in 1963, and received degrees in English, Journalism and Spanish.
Cobb taught high school journalism at Maryville, and he taught and coached in Barnard, Plattsburg and Odessa, serving as the yearbook and school newspaper adviser. Regarded as one of the top journalism instructors in the state, many of his former students became teachers and journalists.
In the mid-1970s, Cobb became editor of The Richmond News. After a few years, Cobb and his wife, Lana, moved to King City, eventually buying the King City Tri-County News, publishing the weekly for 21 years and winning numerous awards for news coverage. The Cobbs also owned the Stanberry Headlight and Albany Ledger for a time.
At King City High School, he taught Spanish, and established and coached in the school’s golf and softball programs.
Cobb was president of the Northwest Missouri Press Association in 1981 and was awarded the Merrill Chilcote Award for Outstanding Service to Journalism in Northwest Missouri in 1999.
He was well known for his weekly opinion columns in the Tri-County News, "Off The Cobb" and "Chalk Talk," and he covered the Kansas City Royals, often visiting the team locker room and press box, becoming friends with Frank White, George Brett and other players.
While never letting his crippling physical condition stop him from doing anything he wanted to do, Cobb was an inspiration to everyone he met.
Jane Duncan Flink (1929 – )
Jane Flink and her late husband, Richard, purchased the Boone County Journal in Ashland in 1986, publishing the weekly until they retired in 2001. She is known to be a gifted editor, who reads broadly and constantly, thinks deeply, and writes with both passion and balance.
Mrs. Flink wrote and edited news for the Centralia Fireside Guard and the Fulton Kingdom Daily News from 1974 until 1982. She was the agriculture editor for Missouri Ruralist magazine from 1982 to 1985, and served as director of the Winston Churchill Memorial and Library at Westminster College, Fulton, beginning in 1985 for five years, while continuing her newspaper duties.
Under the Flinks’ guidance, the Boone County Journal in 1986 was one of the first Missouri weeklies to transition to desktop publishing. During their 15 years as owners, the Flinks’ newspaper won numerous awards for editorial writing and editorial pages, photography, reporting on the Flood of 1993 and General Excellence.
Mrs. Flink left her mark on the newspaper world in many ways, including:
–Mentoring young writers;
–Being an early advocate for news and features on family and lifestyle issues, rather than "women’s news;"
–Doubling the Boone County Journal’s revenue and circulation, setting it on a firm foundation;
–Advocating for city parks, health education in the schools, and making future "smart growth" a serious issue for Ashland and its town council.
Mrs. Flink was active in journalism organizations. She received the "Communicator of the Year" award from Missouri Press Women nine consecutive years, and in 1988, was named the state society’s Woman of the Year. At the National Federation of Press Women, among 50 nominees, she was runner-up for the national Press Woman of the Year.
She was president of Missouri Press Women in 1995, and a member of the Board of Directors of the NFPW. She served as president of the Boone County Historical Society in 1999-2000.
Wendell Lenhart (1954 – )
Wendell Lenhart is a second-generation president of the Missouri Press Association. Lenhart, publisher of the Trenton Republican-Times in north-central Missouri, served as MPA President in 2001.
His father, the late William O. Lenhart, served as MPA President in 1981. The elder Lenhart died in 1983, which led to his son moving from the general manager position to publisher of the daily newspaper, owned by his family since 1963.
Lenhart served as president of the Northwest Missouri Press Association in 1987-1988, and president of the Missouri Associated Dailies in 1989-1990. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Missouri Press Foundation.
A co-worker said Lenhart "truly exemplifies what leading a ‘community newspaper’ is all about, keeping Trenton and the surrounding area informed as to what is happening in the area and serving as a voice of the community through his editorials."
Lenhart has led a number of community organizations, serving as president of the Wright Memorial Hospital Board of Directors, president of the Trenton Downtown Improvement Association, president of the North Central Missouri College Foundation, and co-chair of the college’s "Invest in the Vision" fundraising campaign that resulted in construction and development of a classroom complex. He is a former member of the Missouri Ethics Commission.
In 2001, Lenhart said people disenchanted with the national media make a distinction between their local newspaper and the national media. That distinction results from the involvement of a local newspaper and its publisher helping to find solutions to its community’s problems.
Lenhart and the Trenton Republican-Times have plenty of experience with that.
Edwin Q. White (1922 - 2012)
Edwin Q. White was a journalist who cut his teeth in Missouri and on Missouri newspapers, but he made his biggest mark covering the Vietnam War, serving in the Saigon bureau of the Associated Press.
White was born in Tipton, Mo. As a child he was interested in the operation of The Tipton Times weekly newspaper, and he set his sights on a career in journalism. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, and was on the staff of the Pacific Stars and Stripes after the war ended. He left military service and returned to work five years for newspapers in Kansas and Missouri, including as a reporter and city editor for the West Plains Daily Quill.
His interest in overseas reporting led him to the Associated Press. First, he worked for the AP five years in the Kansas City bureau, beginning in 1949. Next came stops with the AP in New York City and in Tokyo. He began covering the escalating conflict in Vietnam in the early 1960s, and was named the AP bureau chief in Saigon, 1965-1967.
White, known among his colleagues by his middle name, Quigley, was one of five former members of what author David Halberstam called "that great AP Saigon bureau." Richard Pyle, AP Saigon bureau chief, 1970-1973, said, "All were iconic figures, and among his peers, none was more admired than Ed for his calm demeanor, his sure-handed skills, and not least his acerbic wit, in the tense and sometimes chaotic circumstances that are part of war reporting.
"White worked primarily as a desk editor, often on overnight duty, but he also took his turns as a field reporter riding helicopters into dangerous places and covering the troops in combat," Pyle said. "It is safe to say that the journalistic seasoning he acquired early on Missouri newspapers and burnished over the years with AP served him well."
During most of the 15 years of the Vietnam War (1960-1975), White divided his time on assignments between Tokyo and Vietnam. In 1975, with regret, he was a passenger on one of the last evacuation helicopters that left from the roof of the U.S. embassy when Saigon fell to communist forces.
An AP story at the time of his death last year said White was known as a reporter’s reporter skeptical, careful, a stickler for accuracy, with a no-frills writing style that stressed facts over drama.