A quarter century or so ago, Ken Newton and Alonzo Weston walked into a newsroom that was considerably different than what you would see today.
Reporters worked toward a single evening deadline for the next day’s newspaper, although St. Joseph News-Press employees recalled a not-so-distant past with an evening and morning print edition. Photos were developed on film, a printing plant rumbled in the basement and a single computer terminal was connected to the internet.
That computer sounded like it had a broken spring when you logged on. Twitter followers? That sounded like some sort of cult.
One thing, however, remained unchanging for Newton and Weston. Both displayed a distinguished commitment to journalism that was both highly readable and in the public interest during careers as reporters and columnists at the St. Joseph News-Press. Both retired Friday from their full-time positions at what is now a media company with print, television and online platforms.
“Both leave behind an impressive body of work, the likes of which may never be seen in our newsroom, or our community, again,” said Steve Booher, director of news and content strategies, in a note to the newsroom. “Over the decades, they’ve watched the news industry change. They both have stayed mindful that, even as a newspaper’s methods and delivery change, the ethics, standards and commitment to serve readers remains constant.”
Both shared striking similarities, despite differences in background. Weston was a lifelong resident of this city who knew how to find the untold stories of St. Joseph neighborhoods and displayed a passionate desire to advocate for those who were underprivileged or forgotten. Newton, who came from the state’s Bootheel, was equally adroit when questioning a U.S. senator about matters of policy or telling the story of the “pie lady” of a Northwest Missouri small town.
Both brought a combined 50-plus years of insight and wit to this newsroom and the communities of Northwest Missouri. Both became well-known parts of the community and developed both empathy and thick skin, essential ingredients for any reporter worth his or her salt.
They leave us a little poorer for walking out the door, at least metaphorically, for the last time. Thankfully, there are plans for both to continue writing columns on a freelance basis.
Public opinion shows that journalists are not the most trusted professionals in America, although they aren’t last on the list. Much has been made of the press as fake news, enemies of the people and so on.
It’s easier to hate an abstraction than the real thing. Anyone who met Ken Newton or Alonzo Weston, who read their stories about vanished ways of life, pie ladies and politics, wouldn’t feel that way.