Ass-kicking quote from William Allen White

This week, I go home to Kansas to speak at my alma mater, Emporia State University.

To say I’m completely jazzed about this is a huge understatement! Along with presenting at some student events, I’m even going to get to go to a Hornets’ football game back at old Welch Stadium! (I’m told we should kick Truman State’s backside.)

And for those of you who don’t know, Emporia also is the home of one my journalism heroes — William Allen White.

As I’ve been preparing to go home, I’ve been getting all sorts of e-mails from friends and professors at Emporia State. One of my favorite notes came from a longtime friend at ESU who works at the student union, Roger Heineken. Roger is one of those guys who loves the history of not only ESU, but of Emporia — and he knows as much about William Allen White as anyone I’ve met.

In one of his recent notes to me, he sent this quote from William Allen White:

“Of course as long as man lives someone will have to fill the herald’s place. Someone will have to do the bellringer’s work. Someone will have to tell the story of the day’s news and the year’s happenings. A reporter is perennial under many names and will persist with humanity. But whether the reporter’s story will be printed in types upon a press, I don’t know. I seriously doubt it. I think most of the machinery now employed in printing the day’s, the week’s, or the month’s doings will be junked by the end of this century and will be as archaic as the bellringer’s bell, or the herald’s trumpet. New methods of communication I think will supercede the old.”

William Allen White, April 21, 1931
in a personal letter to Lyman B. Kellogg

This quote from William Allen White impresses me on at least a couple of different levels that I think make it as relevant today as it was 75 years ago.

William Allen White was right — we’re always going to need reporters. Journalism is not going to go away regardless of the day’s technology. Reporting isn’t about ink on paper. It’s about people wanting to know what in the heck is going on and what it means to them.

But what I really love about this quote is that this ass-kicking, Pulitzer Prize-winning editor and publisher knew and accepted 75 years ago that our industry was going to evolve.

If only more of today’s current newspaper publishers understood what William Allen White seemingly understood back in 1931.

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Dad. Journalist. Nerd. Music lover. Baseball fan. Puckhead.