Emerson Lynn: A Kansas icon

opinions

April 26, 2013 - 12:00 AM

When I came to the Register in 1964, I was hired by Angelo Scott, Emerson Lynn’s uncle. About 18 months later Emerson was my boss.
My progress as a newspaperman — there’s a difference from being just a reporter — occurred under Emerson’s tutelage, much as it did for many others whose lives he touched as editor, mentor and confidant.
I had had no formal training, rather learned on the fly working the night side at the Pittsburg Sun while attending college.
Emerson took me aside one day and explained Register reporters had a responsibility to readers to deliver a newspaper that contained news of the day, particularly from the local perspective, in a well-written and concise manner. He abhorred editorializing in news stories, allowed that was reserved for the opinion page.
Get to the point, he said, so the reader will know what the story is about and have his or her appetite whetted. Also, remember even the smallest of stories is important to someone.
His editorial approach was simple.
While he quarreled with politicians and policymakers, he did so in a civil manner, except on occasions when a stronger approach obviously was appropriate. He didn’t confuse issues and people, although he was perfectly willing to call a rascal a rascal.
A second editorial rule Emerson always impressed on me was to write about an issue beforehand in an effort to effect change, rather than criticizing after the fact.
His even-handedness in editorial writing was evident Wednesday evening. Gov. Sam Brownback, who Emerson took to task often for his conservative approach to governing, reserved part of a speech at a SAFE BASE event to laud Emerson for what he has meant to Kansas journalism. Brownback called Emerson an icon cut from the same cloth as Clyde Reed, Rolla Clymer and William Allen White.
He and I worked together for 47 years, and even when I visited him in a care facility in Topeka a few weeks ago, I came away a little better informed about the world and how I might help others understand it.
I would have expected no less.

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