Sunday, August 23, 2009
Some thoughts on the death of Harlan Stark
As I was growing up in Newtonia, one of the everyday rituals was heading to Gum's Store after school to await the arrival of the Neosho Daily News.
Back then, the newspaper was delivered to the store, which also served as the community's post office, and Postmaster Vernie Browning would put the newspapers in the mailboxes.
Depending on how early they arrived, I would either take it directly home or I would sit on the steps and read it from front to back. My favorite parts were the sports section, the editorial page, which always included the Washington Merry Go Round, first with Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson, then after Pearson's death, just Anderson, for all of the dirt in Washington, and I read the opinion papers where learned pundits told me that no one would dare run against President Johnson in 1968, George Romney was a shoo-in for the Republican presidential nomination that year, and Edmund Muskie was a cinch for the Democratic nomination in 1972.
I also read the national news items, many of them about the ongoing war in Vietnam and in later years about the Watergate investigation and subsequently, the resignation of President Nixon, and his pardon by President Ford.
And I read the local news items, nearly all of which, it seems through the dim recesses of memory, were written by two men, Bill Ball and Harlan Stark. Mr. Ball, who provided the coverage of local sports, as well as many as many straight news items, died many years ago.
I read moments ago of the death of Harlan Stark. Mr. Stark's obituary says he was with the Neosho Daily News for 23 years. It seems like it was longer, though the Daily has gone through many reporters through the years as it has transitioned from Harlan Stark and Bill Ball to such later mainstays as the late Dean Keeling, Anne Cope, Rob Viehman, and Bill Ball's son, Buzz Ball, to today's staff, including John Ford and my fellow Newtonia native Todd Higdon.
While it takes many hard working people to put together a newspaper, everyone from the publisher to the receptionists to the advertising salesmen and circulation workers, to the public the face of a newspaper is usually the people whose bylines grace the pages of each edition.
For nearly a quarter of a century, the face of the Neosho Daily News was provided by Harlan Stark and Bill Ball. They offered stability and integrity, two items in short supply in today's media climate.