The new year has triggered a reflective time to take stock and resolve to move into the future with a heightened purpose in life.
This coming year, primarily through the new Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame, I resolve to encourage young people behind me, especially if they’re inclined toward careers as writers, photographers, journalists, broadcasters and communicators in general.
This coming summer, the Journalism Hall of Fame is teaming up with the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters with mutual hall of fame induction ceremonies at the plush Embassy Suites Convention Center in Murfreesboro.
The broadcasting association will honor broadcasters and the Journalism Hall of Fame will honor professionals from all facets of media.
This will be the second class of journalism professionals into the new independent nonprofit Journalism Hall of Fame based out of the nationally acclaimed MTSU College of Mass Communication.
As part of personal resolutions, I took stock of the past, counting early people who influenced me toward a world-traveled writing career. One doesn’t do it alone, especially in fledgling career years.
Boyhood neighbor A.J. Neel, may the good Lord rest his tired farm-toiling soul, recognized early that “Little Danny Whittle” shared his love for printed words ‑‑ to the point he helped me learn to read before entering first grade at our tiny rural school of advanced thinking and higher ciphering.
Then came school Superintendent Robert L. Rasche, a man who helped me muddle through turbulent teen years to ultimately graduate from high school. Mr. Rasche had a giant impact on my life.
At age 17, I had a fateful meeting with native Southeast Missouri newspaper publishers Charles Blanton Jr., Allen Blanton and Charles Blanton III.
I entered their small daily newspaper in Sikeston, Mo., seeking a janitor’s job. They mistakenly hired me as a sports writer. I never let on I was there for the janitorial job. I credit that long-ago fortuitous hiring as a God thing, for it launched my professional writing career.
Enter first newspaper editors Paul Bumbarger and Bob York.
Editor Bumbarger used a heavy “editing pencil” that resulted in reporters being taught to tirelessly pursue accurate facts.
“And Whittle, you can’t write like you talked back in the cotton fields of the Bootheel of Missouri,” Mr. Bumbarger frequently edited firmly.
Mr. York was the more colorful editor, who had covered the Indian wars out west in the late 1800s. He encouraged reporting with flare and style. These two tough and grizzled Missouri newspaper legends helped prepare me for a lifelong newspapering career.
In a midlife career move in 1971, Nashville Banner State Editor Weldon Grimsley encouraged me to branch out from native Southeast Missouri and move to Middle Tennessee, another life-changing move for the good.
Which brings me to the present.
The very best publisher I’ve worked with is Ron Fryar, a true community-building journalist. Today, he carries my columns and feature stories in The Murfreesboro Post and Cannon Courier newspapers.
He and my wife, Pat, have been the greatest at encouraging me throughout the years of of writing and publishing books.
The list can go on and on about people who have profoundly touched my life and career.
Through the new Journalism Hall of Fame, I hope to reach back and encourage young writers who will help frame and picture our future world.