Richard G. Inskeep · 1991
This speech was given at his induction into the Hall of Fame
There are two things we best can say among others about Dick Inskeep, president and publisher of The Journal-Gazette of Fort Wayne, Ind. Number one – he heads a newspaper that is fiercely independent, often supporting unpopular causes. Number two – he heads a newspaper that courageously fights for the public’s right to know what their elected and appointed public servants are doing with taxpayer dollars.
Can you ask for much more in a newspaper? It has done more. Dick’s influence and that of his newspaper extends far beyond the circulation area of the Journal-Gazette.
Dick, this is not a paean but a factual statement about you and your newspaper. But first, Dick was born Aug. 25, 1924, at Bluffton, Ind. Dick joined the Journal-Gazette 42 years ago. His first job was to take an inventory of all equipment at the paper. He has worked in ever department and was managing editor for several years.
When he became publisher in 1973, one of his first acts was to change the Journal-Gazette’s political designation from Democratic to independent. This move, one of his employees said, was significant for the growth of the paper. No longer is the Journal-Gazette the mouthpiece for the Democratic Party; rather it made steps toward objective news coverage and open-minded editorial comment.
Open-minded in this case meant that no longer would the paper endorse Democratic candidates, right or wrong.
It didn’t mean that the Journal-Gazette would lose its commitment to social equality, civil rights and liberties, school desegregation and other issues.
To this day, the Journal-Gazette remains a liberal newspaper, one that endorsed minor-party candidates in 1990. It supports gun control, a woman’s right to have an abortion and strong efforts to affirmative action. It has opposed religious scenes in public and local prosecutors’ efforts to shut down pornographic bookstores.
All these positions have been taken in the face of adamant reader opposition. Fort Wayne is a conservative community.
But circulation has not suffered. In fact, Journal-Gazette circulation increased by 7,000 to 64,000 in the last decade.
Dick has stood by his reporters and editors in fighting City Hall and winning. In the last few years, the Journal-Gazette in court has:
• Succeeded in overturning a gag order placed on police and prosecutors after a criminal suspect took his own life in jail.
• Opened up for public inspection and publication records of county board of health inspections of restaurants.
• Won several freedom-of-information cases having to do with federal environmental records.
• Won the release of several documents the city of Fort Wayne wanted to keep private regarding reorganization of governmental structure.
Outside of court but with legal assistance, the Journal-Gazette has opened up meetings of the local transportation agency, pried loose the identities of candidates for school superintendence’s and got the county commissioners to keep better track of their meetings.
All of these battles may have originated with reporters or editors, but none could have been fought without the support and encouragement of the publisher.
While Dick runs a newspaper that frequently challenges the status quo, he moves freely and easily in the circles that newspaper publishers find themselves.
He is a board member of Fort Wayne’s largest bank and of its newest country clubs, a club with both black and women members. He is active in several civic organizations.
Education of journalists is among his other concerns. Dick took the lead among state newspaper officials to provide scholarships for journalism students at Indiana University.
Dick participated with the I.U. School of Journalism in developing a vision for education well-rounded, responsible journalists whose preparation would endure beyond entry-level jobs.
"We are proud of the national reputation this school has earned and Dick Inskeep has played an important part," said Trevor Brown, dean of the school.
Dick also recognized that to attract promising youngsters, you have to infect them with enthusiasm and ambition earlier than college. For years, the Journal-Gazette has given scholarships for high school students in the state to permit them to attend Indiana University’s High School Journalism Institute.
The Journal-Gazette and many other newspaper across the country have benefited from these educational programs. They have attracted young, competent journalists to their staffs.
This busy man also finds time for golf – he owns three sets of golf clubs, one for each country club to which he belongs.
He also has found time to travel, but when he returns home he often says, "I missed the paper."
Dick, welcome to the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame.