Saturday, November 22, 2014

UPI reporter who told the world of JFK's death got his start at the Joplin Globe

The last time the Joplin Globe had any competition (other than this blog) was in 2006 when GateHouse Media, owner of the Carthage Press and Neosho Daily News, started a publication called the Joplin Daily.

The print edition of the Daily was published once a week, but it was designed to steer readers toward the daily version which was online.

John Hacker, now the managing editor of the Carthage Press, was the Daily's editor and when he was lining up columnists, I was one of the first ones on board.

My first column, which was about the Nancy Cruzan right-to-die case was well received, but the upper management at GateHouse did not want me to have a column in every newspaper. They were interested in hauling out the same suspects that get hit up every time someone who doesn't know news tries to hire columnists- pick someone from the Chamber Commerce, someone from the Humane Society, and some bigwig's wife or brother-in-law who has never written anything, but sure would like to try.

I apologized to John, but told him I had no interest in writing the column unless I was doing it on a regular basis.
I already had the column written for the second issue of the newspaper, about a veteran reporter who got his start at the Joplin Globe and who had died earlier that month.

The column was about Jud Dixon's brush with history, when he played a role in the coverage of an event that occurred 51 years ago today- the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The column, which I ran in the Turner Report is reprinted below:

"Get your Joplin Globe, five cents. Get your Joplin Globe five cents."

The job didn't pay much, but the country was in the midst of a depression, and every cent counted. Even more importantly for teenager Jud Dixon, it was his entry into the magical world of news.

That road took Jud from the Globe street sales to reporting jobs with the Globe and the Springfield Daily News to a seven-decade career in journalism that ended last month with his death at age 85 at his Dallas home.

Jud Dixon spent the last five decades of his life in the Dallas area, and it was there on Nov. 22, 1963, that the Joplin High School and Joplin Junior College graduate had a brush with history.

Jud was in charge of the United Press International (UPI) bureau in Dallas when he received word that President Kennedy had been assassinated during a political trip to the city. Within seconds, with the cool demeanor that characterized his entire reporting career, he sat behind his manual typewriter pounding out the story that no reporter ever wants to write, but at times like that, when people absolutely have to know what is going on, that’s when reporters must be at the top of their game.

"He was completely stone-faced, pouring it out of that typewriter," Jack Fallon, who was UPI’s Southwest Division editor at the time, told the Dallas Morning News. "Just by his presence, he kept everyone else around him calm."

Within moments, it was Jud Dixon’s version of the death of President John F. Kennedy that went out over the UPI wire to radio stations and television stations across the United States.

Though Jud Dixon’s coverage of that watershed moment in American history was what led his obituary, he perhaps did his greatest service to journalism and to the public after his retirement from UPI two decades ago.

Jud spent the next 18 years of his life as editor of the newsletter for the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas fighting for the public’s right to know.

When Jud retired for a second time, Freedom of Information director Tommy Thomason praised his years of service. "Jud’s a journalist’s journalist. His entire career has been committed to open government as the basis of solid reporting of the issues and events important to his readers."

Jud Dixon knew the importance of a free and unfettered press serving as the public’s representative. He knew that when the workings of government were open to the public that this country could survive anything from unpaved streets to official corruption to the death of a president.

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