THE LIFE OF
Remember the days when your local newspaper arrived on the doorstep—or in the bushes—at roughly the same time every day, and someone rushed out to bring it inside so family members could fight over the sports pages, read the editorial and letters to the editor, find out who’d been picked up for speeding, who became engaged, who got divorced?
The book about one such newspaper and its editor is in stores now! North Platte’s Keith Blackledge: Lessons from a Community Journalist is the biography of a longtime editor whose newspaper career spanned from the early 1950s into well into the 20th century. It’s also a story about a town—North Platte, Nebraska—a town Keith Blackledge made his, and, for the readers of the newspaper, their town as well. But it could really be any town because more broadly this is a story about journalism for Keith Blackledge was an editor at a time when the local newspaper had the resources to care about its community—and when people cared about their local newspaper.
Keith Blackledge, 2007
Blackledge not only served in countless leadership positions in North Platte, the region and the state, he used the bully pulpit—his columns and editorials, speeches—as well as his irresistible ability to recruit other people to back the many causes he supported.
This project began nearly 20 years ago when Chuck’s interest in preserving some of North Platte’s unique history led him to conduct numerous videotaped interviews with local dignitaries and civic leaders—including Keith Blackledge. It didn’t take Chuck long to discover that the North Platte Telegraph and its editor were involved in almost every major community development project in the North Platte region. Before long Chuck contacted me saying the Keith Blackledge story was one that merited telling. As indeed it is.
In addition to the videotaped interviews, we discovered the existence of so much material—newspaper articles, all of Blackledge’s editorials and columns, background information he’d kept and filed, personal papers and correspondence. Thus, I took many, many trips from Kearney to North Platte throughout the past six years; I was even given a space in the conference room of the North Platte Public Library to comb through it all.
Because of the breadth of the information uncovered during the research, we created timelines to help with the chronology and organization of the material. Available to you as supplementary to the book, check out the timelines of Keith’s life and career, the histories of North Platte and the North Platte Telegraph, and another summarizing the key events surrounding the landmark free press/fair trial United States Supreme Court decision in Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart.
I (Carol) never met Keith Blackledge, although we worked in a kind of parallel newspaper universe in Nebraska. I cut my journalism teeth at the Scottsbluff Star-Herald, a newspaper where Blackledge’s father previously had been business manager and eventually owned. Later, as a reporter and editor at the Kearney Hub, the North Platte Telegraph was the first so-called exchange paper I made sure to read every day. And during my tenure as a journalism professor at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, I was fully aware that the plum internships were at the Telegraph because students said they learned so much from Mr. Blackleldge.
The availability of the documents Blackledge left behind as well as the accessibility to the many people whose lives he touched provided an excellent opportunity to document one editor’s particular brand of journalism. Pick up your copy of North Platte’s Keith Blackledge: Lessons from a Community Journalist in your favorite bookstore or online here:
— Carol & Chuck
You can contact either of us too through email, or have a chat on Facebook or Twitter.