Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Weekly Editor Stars in Ken Burns' World War II Epic

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Weekly Editor Stars in Ken Burns' World War II Epic

Article excerpt

Like Shelby Foote (the Civil War historian) and Buck Leonard (the old ballplayer), who achieved greater fame after appearing in Ken Burns documentaries, Al McIntosh may become something of a household name this fall when Burns' epic series on World War II airs on PBS. But McIntosh's newspaper days extended well beyond the war years and the columns that Tom Hanks reads in the PBS film. He served as editor and publisher of the Rock County Star Herald for several decades, and became president of the Minnesota Newspaper Association.

Although he did not serve in the war, you might call him a "fighting editor," as the following episode -- featuring another notable small-town journalist -- makes clear.

On Dec. 21, 1962, Time magazine carried a short profile of Robert M. "Bob" Myers, the 40-year-old publisher of what the article called the country's "largest and most prosperous country weekly, the Lapeer County Press." Like McIntosh, Myers had a long career, earning election to the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame.

The Time profile opened this way: "In the judgment of Robert Marshall Myers, the American rural weekly is valueless, lily-livered and moribund. It is run by 'printers,' who stuff their pages with syndicated hayseed features and eke out a precarious living on job-printing contracts. 'The political power of the country weekly,' says Myers, 'is a grand illusion. More than half of the nation's 9,000 weeklies never print an editorial. Those that do are generally reactionary.'"

With a circulation of 12,123, the Press easily held off inroads made by the big Detroit and Flint dailies, and made a good deal of money. Myers offered to split all profits above $25,000 among the paper's staff. A local attorney likened the County Press to the Bible.

The article continued: "The main reason for the Press's success is that it strives, with considerable effect, to be a good newspaper. ... The county, like much of rural America, is sturdily Republican, but the Press endorses candidates without regard to party."

To make the paper newsier, Myers "reduced ad space from 67% to 60% ... beefed up the page count from 20 to 36, and sometimes to 40. To attract competent newsmen, he matched salaries with his metropolitan competitors. His editorial staff of 28 now embraces everything from a full-time photographer to an unpaid poet. …

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