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2 journalists with Hays ties honored

4/13/2014

By The Hays Daily News

MANHATTAN — Two journalists with strong connections to Hays were inducted into the Kansas Newspaper Hall of Fame on Friday night at the annual meeting of the Kansas Press Association in Manhattan.

Recipients of the state’s highest newspaper honors were John Lee, former editor and publisher of The Hays Daily News during the 1970s and ’80s, and the late Les Anderson, a graduate of Fort Hays State University.

Lee, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Kansas, began his career as a reporter for the Hutchinson News in 1972. Two years later, Lee, an Iowa native, was the first recipient of the William Allen White Foundation’s Award for Enterprise Reporting for coverage of a school superintendent’s misuse of public funds. In 1974, he became an executive intern for Harris Enterprises Inc., and trained in various departments at The News, The Salina Journal and The Hays Daily News.

Lee was named editor at Hays in March 1976, and became the publisher six months later. During his eight-year tenure, the paper twice earned sweepstakes honors in the Kansas Press Association’s annual competition for the state’s largest dailies. He also successfully sued the Hays Unified School District for access to illegally closed public records.

“By far the most enjoyable part of my career was writing the editorials at The Hays Daily News,” Lee said. “It would be great fun to get back in the groove and discomfort the extremists who now control the state.”

In June 1984, Lee was named to the executive staff at Harris Enterprises and, after successive title changes, became the chief executive officer in 1997. He held that position until 2006 when he retired.

John D. Montgomery, vice president of Harris Enterprises and also a former editor and publisher in Hays, praised Lee in a nomination letter.

“As a group executive, John was a thoughtful and steady leader, respected for his viewpoint and knowledgeable analysis,” Montgomery wrote. “He respected the group’s longtime tradition of autonomy for its newspaper publishers while at the same time encouraging excellence.”

Lee also served as a director of Midwest Press Institute, Inland Press Association, Publishers Associated to Gain Economy, and served a term as a member of the board of the Kansas Press Association. He was chairman of the White Foundation at the University of Kansas and was a member of the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

Being retired has done nothing to dampen his enthusiasm for the business or its future.

“There’s a lot of anxiety among journalists about the evolution of newspapers in the wireless age, but the public’s desire for straight-forward, objective information will always be there,” Lee said. “Providing objective information will be more important than ever, especially as an antidote to the trash in the new pseudo-journalism of various websites and cable channels.”

Anderson received his master’s degree from the University of Missouri after getting his bachelor’s at FHSU. He worked at the Wichita Eagle from 1971 to 1974, then helped found the weekly Wichita Sun.

In 1975, he and his wife founded the Ark Valley News, a weekly he published until 2007. He began teaching writing, editing and community journalism classes at WSU in 1977 and was a professor in the Elliott School of Communication at the time of his death in November 2011.

He was a past president of KPA and the Kansas Newspaper Foundation and former president of the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government. He was a previous recipient of the Clyde M. Reed Jr. Master Editor Award, the Boyd Community Service Award, the Gaston Outstanding Mentor Award and was honored by FHSU with an Alumni Achievement Award.