A group of five newspaper people, which includes one couple and two former Missouri Press Association presidents, will be inducted in September into the Association’s Newspaper Hall of Fame.
The induction reception and banquet are scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27, during MPA’s 153rd Annual Convention and Trade Show at Harrah’s North Kansas City Hotel. This will be the 29th group to be inducted into the Newspaper Hall of Fame, which was established by MPA in 1991.
This year’s inductees are the late Thomas Benton White, founder and publisher of The Benton County Enterprise; the late Frank Stufflebam, editor and publisher of the Bolivar Herald; former MPA President Phil and Kathy Conger, owners and publishers of the Bethany Republican-Clipper; and Carol Stark, long-time editor of the Joplin Globe and former MPA president.
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.
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— Phil and Kathy Conger —
The quintessential small newspaper team, Phil and Kathy Conger represent the third generation of family ownership for the Bethany Republican-Clipper. Phil succeeded his father, Vincent, as publisher in 1978. His grandfather, Erwin, purchased the paper in 1927. He started working at the newspaper in high school and would go on to receive a journalism degree from the University of Missouri, where he met his future wife, Kathy Stroup.
Phil and Kathy married in July 1969 and she joined the newspaper family afterward, doing tasks as needed and eventually selling advertising. Today, she is the newspaper’s advertising manager.
Through the years, Phil and Kathy have worked as a team to keep their communities informed and help advertisers reach an audience that can be spread wide across northern Missouri. With four Iowa newspapers, they jointly operated a commercial printing plant for 40 years. While they have always recognized the challenges that come with publishing a small-town newspaper, the Congers have also embraced ideas that represent the future of digital publishing.
Phil was Missouri Press Association president in 2012 and remains a director on the Missouri Press Service Board. He also was president of Northwest Missouri Press Association in 1974. Kathy, a director for the Missouri Press Foundation, is also the de facto secretary for Northwest Press Association. She also served as president of Northwest Press in 1992. They continue to be very active in various Missouri Press functions and have earned numerous awards for the newspaper.
— Carol Stark —
A groundbreaker and trendsetter, Carol Stark is known by many throughout the newspaper industry for her leadership, judgment, passion and compassion. Since her first journalism job in 1977 at The Carthage Press, and continuing on to her work at the Globe beginning in 1983, Stark has remained a champion of local news, believing that even though the work is not easy, the effect local news has on the community can never be replaced.
From her beginnings at the Globe, Stark worked her way up the newsroom, becoming metro editor in 2003 and then executive editor in 2007. She was the first woman in the newspaper’s 111-year history to hold that position. In 2018, the same year she served as president of Missouri Press Association, her role was expanded further as she was named regional editor for the Globe’s parent company, CNHI
Following the May 2011 Joplin tornado, Stark and her newsroom were thrust into the national spotlight as the newspaper led editorial coverage of the aftermath of one of Missouri’s worst natural disasters. Through their hard work and dedication, the Globe’s staff earned the respect of the community for its coverage of the events, despite suffering its own losses. In leading her staff, Stark encourages them to utilize the newest tools to tell stories and inform the community, but she also stresses the tenants of proper journalism have not changed.
Stark has been a longtime advocate of helping young journalists break into the profession, including being an adviser to Missouri Southern State University’s The Chart; working with Joplin High School students on their newspaper, The Spyglass; running an annual journalism workshop for high school students for more than 30 years; and supporting legislation that would protect the journalism produced by high school students.
— Thomas Benton White —
The story of Thomas Benton White’s journey to establish the Benton County Enterprise in Warsaw is the epitome of early Missouri newspaper pioneering, establishing a dedication to journalism that has continued through five generations. White came to Warsaw in 1879 from Denver, Colo., where he had been a reporter for the Rocky Mountain News.
With $500 to his name and five children, he purchased the Osage Queen, a riverboat that had once traveled the waters between St. Louis and Warsaw before partially sinking when it was caught in an ice jam. Using $300 of the family’s money, White hired a mule team and with the help of many of the town’s men dragged the boat ashore to a site on the town’s main thoroughfare. He spent the remainder of the family’s money on a used Washington Hand Press, type and paper.
“My three sons, and daughters two, will set the type, each week for you,” was the opening statement White used to let Warsaw’s early residents know his family would work hard for the community. And work they did in all endeavors, from raising crops as an agricultural experiment for the area to following up on myths that Spanish explorers had found gold on the Osage River. Their newspaper office was also the first location in the town to install a tele-type machine.
During the 38 years he edited the Enterprise, White changed the culture of Benton County and set a precedent for his family to be involved in the community that has continued to this day. He believed in delivering local news that would bring, and keep, the community together. After falling ill in early 1922, White appointed his son, Edwin Mahlon White, as his successor and retired two months before his death in May of that year.
— Francis Stufflebam —
For 47 years Francis Stufflebam used his editorial page in the Bolivar Herald to advocate for the betterment of Bolivar and Polk County. His ownership and management of the newspaper began in June 1904 with a self-penned introduction that promised to “advocate Jeffersonian democracy pure and simple, high standards for the county’s schools and teachers, and anything contributing to the upbuilding of town, state, or nation.”
Formerly the Polk County commissioner of schools, Stufflebam backed up his promise in the very first edition of his ownership of the newspaper with an offer to provide a scholarship to Southwest Baptist College for the child who sold the most paid yearly subscriptions. It would not be the first time he would work with the college, and the relationship between publisher and school would culminate with the naming of the college’s original campus after him to commemorate his efforts to revitalize and sustain SBC.
Stufflebam’s crowning achievement in the community came when he sought national recognition for the city of Bolivar and worked to get the nation of Venezuela to present a statue of Simon Bolivar, “the Liberator,” to the city. Even though World War II delayed his efforts, on July 5, 1948, Venezuelan President Romulo Gallegos met U.S. President Harry S Truman in the city for the dedication of the statue in front of an estimated 80,000 spectators.
Perhaps most impressive about Stufflebam’s achievements is that his efforts came from the minority political position in the community. While Polk County was and remains staunchly Republican, the Bolivar Herald flew its Democrat banner proudly under Stufflebam’s ownership. Competition between the Herald and the rival Bolivar Free Press was fierce but fair, a departure from pervasive attitudes between the two publications prior to 1904. He would remain involved with the Herald until his death in 1951.