Narrated by Chuck Salestrom
The prologue shows Keith Blackledge in the Telegraph newsroom on a particular day in 1975, a year the editor once referred to as a “big year.” The prologue depicts the newsroom bustle before the paper goes to press as well as presages many key news events and initiatives that are covered in more detail in later chapters.
Chapter 1: His Calling Was Journalism
This chapter recounts Blackledge’s life during his younger years—as a boy, in high school, and in the Army—through the lens of journalism. The chapter also includes a glimpse of his family background especially as it relates to his life as a newspaperman.
Chapter 2: A Newspaperman in the Making
Chapter 2 is filled with stories of Blackledge negotiating college, jobs, marriage, the births of three sons, and a sputtering first job at a tiny paper in Kansas. Then his first stint at the North Platte Telegraph-Bulletin from 1952 to 1959 during which time his career begins to blossom.
Chapter 3: Big City Journalism
Blackledge gives big city journalism a try at the Miami Herald, then the Dayton Journal Herald from 1959 to 1967. Included are descriptions of the Herald during pressmen strikes, the Bay of Pigs, a plane hijacking, Alan Shepard’s space flight, and fracases among personnel. The chapter also explains Blackledge’s growing frustration with the complex—seemingly counterproductive—inner workings of putting out a metro newspaper, and his growing affinity for editorial writing.
Chapter 4: Community Journalism Comes to North Platte, Nebraska
Blackledge brings community journalism to the Telegraph in 1967 when he returns as the new executive editor. Recruited by Joe R. Seacrest—the Seacrest is name synonymous with publishing in Nebraska—Blackledge enhances local coverage and provides a strong editorial voice during a time when the paper was on the cutting edge of technology.
Chapter 5: Making Things Better
Chapter 5 goes behind-the-scenes to disclose Blackledge’s numerous local and state initiatives—most hard fought, many amusing, and some unsuccessful. More than editorializing, Blackledge said he “sometimes had to get out of the office to organize the citizens,” which is described in this chapter.
Chapter 6: More than Community Campaigns
Chapter 6 shines a light on Blackledge, the newspaperman—inside the Telegraph newsroom—from directing the news coverage and working with the staff, to the genesis and evolution of his personal column Your Town and Mine.
Chapter 7: The Editor and Mentor
Stories abound from former news staffers about Blackledge as the editor they respected, but also as the mentor who helped them find their own voices and grow as journalists and individuals. To Blackledge, the news staff was family, and his connections with many of them lasted a lifetime.
Chapter 8: Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart: The Crime, the Conflict, the Aftermath
Chapter 8 revisits a heinous murder spree, the battle between the Telegraph and the courts regarding the coverage of the trial court proceedings, the U.S. Supreme Court landmark free press/fair trial decision, and the conflict following the verdict. With fresh information, the chapter focuses uniquely on Blackledge and the Telegraph as it continues to put out a newspaper during trying and emotional times.
Chapter 9: In His Own Words
Although every chapter in this book is sprinkled with excerpts from Blackledge’s editorials and columns, Chapter 9 is devoted entirely to examples of his opinions and thoughts—in his own words. In some pieces, he serves as teacher, others philosopher, and still others humorist.
Chapter 10: The Old Editor
Around the time he retired, Blackledge’s began to refer to himself in his columns as the old editor. Chapter 10 follows the old editor as he deals with—and writes about—failing health and aging, and shares with readers poignant reminiscences. Reflections from family and lifelong friends and colleagues also are included.
In his later years, Keith Blackledge knew that local newspapers were in trouble, and he worried about its effect on the communities they serve. In the epilogue, he voices some of those concerns. Also included are updates on the current state of the industry—from the perspective of the community journalism Blackledge practiced for so many years.