April 22, 2005

Journalism Hall of Fame inducts Boomer, Stonecipher

by Paula Davenport

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Two downstate journalists — who started as community newspaper editors —were inducted today (April 22) into the Journalism Hall of Fame during the annual spring meeting of the Southern Illinois Editorial Association or SIEA.

Approximately 100 downstate newspapers belong to the SIEA.

Honors went to Jill Boomer, editor of the Jersey County Star and outgoing SIEA president, and the late Harry Stonecipher, a long-time journalism professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and former publisher and editor of the Arcola Record-Herald and the Washington, Mo., Citizen. He died Dec. 26, 2004, at the age of 86.

The SIUC School of Journalism — in the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts — annually recognizes the region's best newspaper people with Master Editor awards. Festivities took place at Giant City State Lodge Park in Makanda.

Portraits of the 2005 inductees will be installed alongside those of earlier honorees. Together, their visages line a corridor gallery by the entrance to the SIUC student-run newspaper, The Daily Egyptian, in the Communications Building.

Here are brief sketches on this year's Master Editors:

• Jill Boomer, a 1979 graduate of the SIUC "J School," seems to have been born to the business. A second-generation Master Editor, she is the daughter of Joe Michelich, a 1984 Master

Editor and publisher of the South County Publications Ltd., a group of seven community newspapers he and his family own and operate.

Other papers in the chain include the Auburn Citizen, quarterbacked by Joe Michelich Jr.; the Chatham Clarion, Pawnee Post, Divernon News and papers in Pleasant Plains and New Berlin.

"We started the Jersey County Star in 1996, and it has been hers from day one," the elder Michelich said in an earlier interview. "Jill's made it what it is today. We're proud of her."

He and others in the more than 100-year-old SIEA group have reason to be.

Boomer juggles at least three jobs at the paper: editor, reporter and photographer. She also pens an occasional column.

An estimated 5,000 readers rely on the1,500-circulation weekly tabloid-sized publication. It prides itself on bringing folks "Jersey County's good news every week since 1996."

Local, governmental, civic and political news; hometown photos; sports coverage; advances of coming events; school news; public notices; a wealth of display ads pack every issue.

There's also a a comprehensive church directory, a locally-written sports column, a short feature spotlighting a local resident and friendly reader reminders

Boomer's paper hits newsstands on Thursdays. And it's only $25 a year, in state, to subscribe.

Among its greatest strengths is its ability to connect people in and to a small town that rests in the shadows of burgeoning Metro East Illinois and greater St. Louis.

Before opening the newspaper, she worked for more than 15 years at several law-related organizations in the Chicago area, including the Illinois State Bar Assoc., the Constitutional Rights Foundation and the National Strategy Forum.

• Stonecipher was a professor emeritus of journalism at SIUC and former community newspaper editor and publisher.

He joined the University "J School" faculty in 1968 and excelled at teaching journalism law, legal research, editorial writing, news reporting and press freedom,

During his tenure, he rose to become deputy director of the SIUC School of Journalism, a post he held for four years, and he headed the news-editorial faculty from 1974 until his retirement in 1984.

A legal eagle, Stonecipher was a recognized authority on the First Amendment.

He also penned numerous scholarly publications and three journalism books, "The Mass Media and the Law in Illinois," "Electronic Age News Editing and "Editorial and Persuasive Writing."

Prior to teaching, he and his wife Helen M. (Leuty) published weekly newspapers, first the Washington, Mo., Citizen from 1955-56 and the Arcola Record-Herald from 1957-67.

Together, the Stoneciphers set up an endowed journalism scholarship that continues to provide financial assistance to at least one student a year who demonstrates a gift for the craft they worked so hard to promote.

Stonecipher recognized the necessity of financial assistance when it came to pursuing a journalism degree.

He didn't enroll in college until he was 30. The G.I. Bill of Rights enabled him to pursue his journalism dreams.

A Salem High School graduate in 1936, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps at Scott Field near Belleville; later served in the Illinois National Guard; was inducted into active service as first sergeant in 1941; saw combat in the Pacific Theater during World War II, where he received a battlefield commission as second lieutenant in the Philippines and was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart medals. He retired as a captain after completing 20 years of service with the U.S. Army Reserve.

He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at the University of Missouri at Columbia (1953, 1955 respectively) and a doctorate in journalism at SIUC (1971).

Former student Kyo Ho Youm, now Jonathan Marshall First Amendment Chair at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, in a memorial to Stonecipher wrote: "As a teacher, he relentlessly pursued the highest standards of excellence. Never did he settle for the mediocre."