I was saddened when I read in the Rapid City Journal that Jim Kuehn had died June 10, at the age of 87.
Who’s Jim Kuehn, you ask? Well, I feel he was the ultimate newspaper professional, and he earned the respect of many. I read his obituary, which was long and loving, reflecting how much he meant to his “family” at the Journal.
Then I read a piece by Terry Woster about Jim. Jim touched many lives in many ways, and Woster’s perception of him was quite a bit like my own. We both consider him the epitome of what a newspaper person should be.
Jim grew up in Mobridge, and he spent his 37-year daily newspaper career with the Rapid City Journal.
When I started at the Rapid City Journal, I worked in the “creative department,” writing copy for display ads, as well as feature articles for special supplements. All that was considered the “advertising” part of the paper, and we didn’t have much to do with the “news and editorial” part. In fact we were on different floors of the building. I crossed paths with Jim Kuehn now and again, separate floors or not, and he always impressed me as intelligent and kind, not to mention talented.
When I had the chance to fill the community relations position, I began to work more closely with him and the editorial side of the paper. He was skilled, a good leader, and he never forgot why newspapers came to be…to bring the news to the public.
Advertising and comics and editorial comment are all well and good, but for Kuehn the news of the day made the paper.
Kuehn was at the helm during the Rapid City flood, and for that coverage won the Inland Press Association Cup for Excellence from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. He received many other honors over the years, and in September 2010 he was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame.
Woster put a bit of a different spin on things. He talked about how Jim always dressed like a professional. Come to think of it, he did. But nearly everyone I knew dressed with taste in those days (how I miss that!!!).
Woster said, “If Clark Kent hadn’t stolen the role early on, Jim could have been the mild-mannered reporter of comics and movie fame. He had a calm voice and soft eyes behind thick glasses.”
Woster also recalled that editors at other South Dakota newspapers were “equally serious, equally meticulous about their dress and equally committed to their craft. They cared about their craft and their paper’s place in the community.”
Woster and I are from the same generation, and I suppose we probably share a lot of ingrained beliefs about how news should be covered, what professionalism is, and even “how to dress.” To my way of thinking, over the years we learned from many who were the best, including Jim.
Woster summed up his column by stating, “Jim Kuehn was just a Mobridge kid who found a career in newspapers. We should have more like that today.”
To that I say, “Amen.”
The kid who became a consummate newsman