The best newspapers don’t just chronicle events in their communities – they consider readers’ needs and interests in presenting information and analysis. They engage readers in conversation and civil debate; expose wrongdoing and hypocrisy. They shape public opinion through context, historical background and diverse views. They entertain and teach.
They bring out the best in a community.
Richard Inskeep, the longtime publisher of The Journal Gazette, sustained and nurtured a newspaper dedicated to those functions. His guidance over nearly a quarter-century allowed this newspaper to strive for excellence in serving its readers, the community and state.
Inskeep, who died early Wednesday, was committed to providing a locally owned newspaper even as other publishers sold out to large media companies. The value of local ownership is inestimable, as is the value of two distinct newspaper operations, which Inskeep undoubtedly helped to preserve when he recognized that changes in the industry demanded more flexibility for the morning newspaper.
His efforts to keep The Journal Gazette competitive with the News-Sentinel ultimately allowed two newspapers to survive under a joint operating agreement that continues today. In the aftermath of widespread consolidation, few cities can claim to offer both a morning and evening newspaper.
While he started at The Journal Gazette in its business operations, Inskeep was a staunch supporter of the journalistic ideals guiding newsroom decisions.
In an era when most newspapers are loath to give offense, when diversity of opinion is celebrated more in theory than practice, Dick Inskeep has preserved a different kind of newspaper, with its own heartfelt opinions about society, government, and business, read a tribute from the Hoosier State Press Association when he was awarded its First Freedom Award in 1996.
HSPA praised the newspaper for its willingness to take stands of conscience, even when those positions were not popular.
Inskeep not only promoted civic-mindedness through his newspaper – he modeled it in his own life. He was a longtime supporter and past chairman of United Way of Allen County and served on the boards of Family and Children Services, Parkview Hospital, the Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce and the YMCA.
Inskeep established The Journal Gazette Foundation in 1986 as a vehicle to support education, health care, social services and literacy. The foundation has donated more than $10 million since then.
A strong voice for northeast Indiana fell silent with Dick Inskeep’s death, but the leadership he exhibited resounds today in a stronger and more attractive community – what every newspaper should aspire to promote.