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Lowell O. Denton

In an era of turmoil in the newspaper business, it would be easy to overlook the passing of the former publisher of a small rural weekly. Stop for a moment.

Lowell Denton died on October 15. In 1951, he and his wife, Jean, bought the Flemingsburg Gazette in Flemingsburg, Ky., of which he was publisher until his retirement in 1999. I wrote about Lowell and Jean last summer, on the anniversary of their hiring me, a callow teenager, to work for the summers as a reporter, copy editor and dogsbody. But there is more to be said.

For nearly 50 years, Lowell Denton was out and about every day, cajoling advertisers, schoomzing, gathering information, taking and developing photographs, putting in the 50, 60, 70 hours a week that it takes to make a go of rural weekly. And he relished it, because he was genuinely interested in people. And people liked him, because he was genial and approachable.

What he provided his readers was a chronicle of their time and place, their births, marriages and funerals; their social activities and their business decisions; the fires and floods and accidents that beset them; the champion vegetables that they grew in the summer and the deer they shot in the fall. Each week he published a physical representation of who the people of Fleming County, Kentucky, were, and what they were about.

It is easy for would-be sophisticates to scorn this, and I, a typical snotty undergraduate at the time I worked there, often felt myself above it all. But now, still a subscriber to the Gazette, I read it every week, and I pay attention to the retrospective notes from the files from 50 years ago, 40 years ago and 20 years ago — the notes that strike the chords of memory and remind me who I am and where I came from. 

Newspapering is not a business for you unless you love it, and it was plain to me at the time, and has become plainer still in retrospect, that Lowell loved what he did. It brought him in daily contact with people and their concerns and aspirations. He wasn’t gullible about their pretensions and failings, but he was indulgent of them. He loved the physical production of the paper, from the days of Linotype operation to the days of computerized typesetting. He loved overseeing the page makeup, and he was proud every week to see his paper go into the mail. Every week he took a bundle of complimentary copies to the county hospital and went room to room, handing them out to the patients.

Lowell Denton was kind, unpretentious, generous and good-hearted. He and Jean gave me a start on what turned out to be a career, and I owe them both a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid. But now, as he passes from the realm of the living, I stand to honor his memory.

 

 

Posted by John McIntyre at 10:04 PM | | Comments (3)
        

Comments

Another nice tribute, John. I remember last summer's without going back to it.

Men and women like Mr. Denton are keeping small papers running while the larger ones that many of us fought to reach are dying.
We can learn from the Lowell Dentons not just at the beginning but also far into our careers.

Did you grow up in a rural town? I think coming from one makes me not want to work at such a tiny paper. It takes a giant effort and even more than 70 hours a week, but you can create that community in cities.

John, what a wonderful tribute to "Mr. Denton". People like you and I really know what a great person he was. He got me into the newspaper world fresh from high school and even after leaving the Gazette for newspapers in Florida and then 35 years with the Associated Press I always visited him when returning to Flemingsburg for a chat. The most recent visit was only a couple of weeks before his death. I'll sure miss those visits.
GENE BLYTHE, LILBURN, GA

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.
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