– 30 –
To most of you reading this column, the above number is merely the number after 29 and before 31. But, to those of us who worked our way up through the newspaper business back in the day, it means much more. Back when we typed our stories on a typewriter, and even in the early electronic era, "30" at the bottom of a page of copy meant the end.
Jerry Buxton, my Pawnee County reporter here at the Tribune for several years, was one of those old-fashioned newsmen who understood the above notation. That is why it makes a fitting epitaph.
Jerry died Saturday at Hospice House in Hutchinson. He was 68 and succumbed to a fast-moving form of cancer that attacked his spine and, in the end, his mind. Damn this insidious disease.
I’m not sure which angers me more – the fact the cancer killed Jerry or that it claimed his faculties.
You see, Jerry was one of the last of a dying breed – the coffee-guzzling, old-school print journalist who understood and valued community journalism. Even near the end, wracked with pain and barely able to make it into the newsroom, his passion for covering Larned and surrounding area never faded, at least until the illness snuffed out that spark.
For Jerry, an English major in college (he graduated from Fort Hays State and attended KU), it was all about the words. The more he included, the better. Colorful – yes. Concise – no. But that was Jerry’s style. It harkened back to an era when reporters reported more than the facts (the who, what, when, where and why) and added embellishments and verbal filigree to their work. My pleas for him to write more compactly fell on deaf ears.
A deeply intelligent artist, he understood the English language probably better than anyone else here and he deftly played with it. This comprehension made him one of the best copy editors we had.
Even as the newspaper world evolved into the digital monster it has become, he remained a steadfast ink-on-newsprint guy. His use of language was reminiscent of a time when the colorful printed word was all news consumers had. This time, when readers voraciously devoured every syllable on every page, may have fallen through the cracks of time, but to Jerry, they remained alive and well.
He got it. He understood the importance of local news coverage and he lived it. Perhaps it was his being a native of Ransom that gave him such a keen insight into small towns and what makes them tick.
But Jerry was more than a journalist and wordsmith. He was friend and colleague. His sarcasm and sardonic wit will be missed.
My Publisher Mary Hoisington and I went to visit Jerry last Thursday. What we found was a faint shell of the man we knew. The cancer had reduced this man of words to a man of airy grunts. I just prayed there weren’t words still in his head he was trying to get out, for that would mean he was trapped in this frail and failing husk of a body.
I am involved with the Relay for Life of Barton County, the annual American Cancer Society fund-raising event. We are always asked how cancer hits home and why we struggle to fight it. This is how and why.
Almost until the very end, Jerry remained a valuable part of this news team and a valuable survivor of a fading newspaper golden age. Godspeed Jerry.
– 30 –
Dale Hogg is the managing editor of the Great Bend Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.