Friday, June 16, 2006

Veteran AP newsman Stevens elected to Hall of Fame

When a reporter believes he has a scoop, a bit of paranoia sneaks in.
That was the case in 1994, when an source confirmed something I had been anticipating for quite a while. It was about 9:30 a.m. and we had a noon deadline at The Carthage Press when I received a phone call from a woman in Lamar telling me that several women who were either employees or former employees at Barton County Memorial Hospital were suing the administrator for sexual harassment.
Unfortunately, the case had been filed in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri at Kansas City and this was years before these cases would become easily accessible. I knew if I waited the few days it would take to get the file, the Joplin Globe or the Lamar Democrat would beat me to the story.
The Press' Publisher, Jim Farley, suggested that I call Paul Stevens, the director of the Missouri Associated Press office in Kansas City. "He can get it for you," Jim said. I was skeptical.
I shouldn't have been.
All it took was one quick phone call. Paul Stevens had a reporter pick up a copy of the petition, faxed it to me by 11:30 a.m. and 20 minutes later, The Press had the story for that day's edition.
As it turns out, I needn't have worried about getting scooped by the Globe, since the Globe never picked up on the story, while the Press investigation later unearthed a long history of sexual harassment in the administrator's past and led to his dismissal and to a $369,000 settlement with the women. The Lamar Democrat didn't begin running articles on the situation until it was almost over.
It didn't matter. The reason we were able to provide a story that was important to the Lamar area on a timely basis was because Paul Stevens did whatever he could to make sure his AP clients were well provided for.
So I was pleased this morning to read that Stevens will be one of four people inducted into the Missouri Newspaper Hall of Fame in September. I can't think of anyone more deserving.

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