April 23, 2004

Three Master Editors join Journalism Hall of Fame

by Paula M. Davenport

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Three accomplished newspaper editors who've spent the bulk of their careers covering their hometown communities are the newest Master Editors inductees to the Journalism Hall of Fame at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Honorees are: Julie Boren, publisher and editor of Campbell Publication's five papers, including the Pike Press; and identical twins Norris and Nathan Jones, respective editor and general manager/advertising director of four papers in the Gold Nugget chain, which includes their hometown Virden Record.

Each received signature "Golden em" pins -- symbolic of the old printer's "em" -- at the Southern Illinois Editorial Association's annual spring meeting today (April 23) at Giant City State Park Lodge near Makanda.

Portraits of the three will join a permanent photo display in a busy wing of the "J" School, where they reign in full view of journalism students and staff members of the Daily Egyptian, the campus' award-winning student newspaper.

Here are brief bios of the 2004 inductees:

• Boren, 51, grew up helping her folks Donald I. and Jane M. Parks gather eggs, tend orphan calves and raise pigs on the family farm in Pike County's tiny Milford. By the time she was 12 she was smitten with the news bug and she's never looked back.

In seventh grade, she and her friends convinced school officials to let them launch a school paper, which she edited.

From there she parlayed a love of writing into a job as columnist for the Pike Press, covering goings on at East Pike High School. She went on to earn a journalism degree in just three years at the University of Illinois, where she worked on the Daily Illini newspaper, and graduated "bronze tablet," or among the top in her class (1973).

In 1975, she hired on as a general assignment reporter at the Pike Press, quickly ascending to editor when the woman who'd been running the paper died unexpectedly just a few years later.

Boren rose to become both publisher and editor in 1992.

"That year we gained two other papers and since then the (group owner) bought two more and added a sixth. So it hasn't been dull," said Boren, who besides Pittsfield's Pike Press oversees Hardin's Calhoun News-Herald, Carrollton's Greene Prairie Press, Winchester's Scott County Times and Pleasant Hill's Weekly Messenger. Together the six publications reach 30,000 readers a week.

She is the recipient of numerous awards for editorial writing from the SIEA and the Illinois Press Association. And since 1991, the Pike Press has won the IPA general excellence awards twice and the SIEA General Excellence Award, including three consecutive titles in 1993-95.

She and her husband, Mike, have three sons, Zachary, 22, Braxton, 18 and Spencer, 16.

Boren is active in her community. Recently, she helped resurrect the high school's defunct drama club. In addition, she belongs to the Business and Professional Women's organization and the Rotary Club.

"She's the best. The papers show that by all the awards they've won and by the unbelievable acceptance of readers. I'm often stopped by people who say, 'I just LOVE your newspaper,'" said J. Bruce Campbell, Boren's boss and owner of the parent Campbell Publications group.

• Norris and Nathan Jones' careers closely mirror each other. Both 55, they're third-generation owners/operators of the Virden Record, where their parents Charles E. and Dorothy Jones expected them to start working early.

"Our parents believed in child labor and started us working when we were six," Nathan recalled with a laugh. No matter how late it was when the weekly rolled off the press, the twins would be there grabbing and stacking them as they popped out of the folding machine.

"We'd go to kindergarten the next day with only an hour or two of sleep. And the next day, we'd start putting all the hand-set type -- California job case -- back into its cases," Nathan said.

They moved through SIUC's Journalism School in lock step, working all four years at the Daily Egyptian. During their first two years, Nathan shot photos and grabbed some legendary shots of the campus' Old Main building going up in flames. Norris worked the back shop then.

Senior year, Nathan worked as dayside editor at the DE and then he'd hand his duties off to his brother, Norris, who worked as nightside editor.

They earned their diplomas in 1970 and jumped at then Naval petty officer and Pana News-Palladium publisher Tom Phillips' suggestion they enlist in the U.S. Navy Reserves.

For the next 30-plus years, they juggled their jobs overseeing the paper and their responsibilities as "drilling reservists" in the armed forces.

"Nathan and I have had rather active naval careers," Norris explained.

Most recently, Nathan answered a 1991 call to serve on General Normal Schwarzkopf's public affairs staff, based in Riyadh, Saudia Arabia, during Operation Desert Storm, during which he earned a bronze star.

In 2002, he was recalled to active duty to work as director of operations in the Public Affairs Office for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon. A year later, he joined the staff of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance and spent time in Baghdad, Iraq.

Norris was called last year to head up the joint information bureau at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany working with more than 350 media covering the arrival and medical treatment of the first injured soldiers and later the prisoners of war from Operation Iraqi Freedom. From there, he moved to Europe and then to NATO to work with the U.S. general then in charge of Iraqi reconstruction, pre-Paul Bremer. He's earned numerous medals during his career.

Norris retired at the rank of captain in the Navy this year, after nearly 34 years of service. Nathan will be promoted to admiral in 2005.

For the Joneses, newspapering has always been a family affair.

When they were called to active duty, Norris and Nathan covered each other's publishing duties, with generous assistance from other family members.

"And the community has been very understanding and very supportive," Norris explained.

Today, the Jones family -- in addition to The Record -- owns and operates four papers, including the Girard Gazette, Palmyra's Northwestern News and Raymond's Panhandle Press.

The twins said they're proud to be named Master Editors, following in their father's footsteps.

"It's pretty neat 'cause dad's got a picture up on that wall and my son Justin (a DE photographer and J-School grad) would comment about it. I called Justin yesterday and told him that apparently his uncle Nathan and I have reached the age that we can join dad on the wall of fame," Norris said.

Norris and his wife, Jeannie, are parents of two sons, Justin, 26 and Joshua, 21.

Nathan and his wife, Marci, have four children, Sean, 30, Ethan, 27, Miranda, 20 and Chelsea, 16.