A long-time area newspaper publisher was among the latest selections for induction into the Kansas Newspaper Hall of Fame. Linda Denning, editor and publisher of the Ellsworth County Independent-Reporter, joins the Associated Press’ John D. Hanna and Gary Mehl, retired editor and publisher of the McPherson Sentinel, in receiving the honor for 2020.
The three will be honored as soon as it is deemed safe by health officials to meet together at a Kansas Press Association convention or other special event.
Denning, a past president of KPA, has for the past 20 years helped lead news coverage in Ellsworth County. “When I was in the third grade, my babysitter — a future journalist herself — took me on a field trip to Fort Wayne, Ind., where we toured the Journal Gazette. I remember the exact moment when I decided this was somewhere I wanted to be. It was when the presses stated running. I’d never seen anything quite like it. That was the day I started writing and I’ve never stopped,” she said.
Her first job was at the student newspaper at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. She then started her professional career at the Salina Journal, serving there as regional editor for almost 27 years. It was “one of the best times of my life,” she said.
“I met my husband there, made many friends and looked forward to going into work every day.” But one day, an opportunity arose she couldn’t ignore. She joined forces with Sharon Montague, her colleague at the Journal, to purchase the Ellsworth Reporter, but they were outbid by Morris Multimedia of Savannah, Ga. Local community leaders were concerned with the prospect of out-of-state ownership of their local newspaper, so she and Montague started a competing newspaper, the Ellsworth County Independent.
Montague eventually returned to the Journal and, in 2001, Denning agreed to a partnership with Morris with the new merged newspaper, the Ellsworth County Independent-Reporter. Denning received the Clyde M. Reed Jr. Master Editor Award in 2004. Mary Hoisington, editor and publisher of the Great Bend Tribune, said, “Linda exhibits all of the characteristics we extol in outstanding newspaper leaders. Her uncompromising quest for excellence is evident in the passion she has shown for quality, unbiased journalism, efficacious editorials, active community engagement and industry leadership. “Linda has helped to pave the way for female newspaper managers in what has historically been a male dominated industry. Linda is always willing to advise, partner and help mentor.”