Former Democrat publisher inducted into MPA Hall of Fame

Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Bob Mitchell, second from right, flashes a smile as he is congratulated for his induction into the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame on Friday in Springfield. Dave Marner/Special to the Cassville Democrat

Bob Mitchell praises virtue of community journalism

The Missouri Press Association honored Bob Mitchell, former owner and editor of the Cassville Democrat, on Friday by inducting him into the association’s Hall of Fame in ceremonies held at the University Plaza Hotel in Springfield.

Mitchell was part of an induction class that included Ken Meuser of The Monett Times, the late Arthur Aull of the Lamar Democrat and Vicki Russell from the Columbia Daily Tribune.

Bob Mitchell, left, spoke during his induction into the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame on Friday in Springfield. Charles E. Haney, a 2008 inductee who worked at the Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune, who served as master of ceremonies for the induction ceremony, stands at right. Murray Bishoff/times-news@monett-times.com

Each of the inductees was introduced by a brief video recalling their career, including comments from Jacob Brower, the current publisher of the Cassville Democrat.

Mitchell’s video recounted how the Ray family started the Cassville Democrat in 1872, owning and operating the newspaper until Mitchell sold it in 1996. Mitchell had perhaps not seen himself in that line of work, but fell into reporting as part of “Harry Truman’s press corps” while serving in the U.S. Navy in the 1950s during the Korean war.

Picking up the mantle at the newspaper in 1953 as editor and publisher, Mitchell found himself at the helm at the height of the “newspaper war” between the Democrat and the Cassville Republican. Ironically, the video noted, in a community that became increasingly more conservative over time, it was the Democrat that endured, seeing the Cassville Republican pass from the scene in 1984.

Mitchell played a pivotal role in the industrial development of Cassville. In his 16 years serving on the Cassville Industrial Development Corporation, Fasco and Justin Boot came to the city, remaining two of the town’s biggest employers, offering jobs to 14 percent of the population. He also helped in the creation of the Cassville golf course.

Earlier this year Mitchell was inducted into the Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.

Mitchell referred to his induction as a “high honor” to both the Democrat and the Cassville community. He credited his success in large part to his wife of 68 years, Sue Mitchell, who was present to accept a round of applause from the audience.

Mitchell said “his career” actually started when Dr. John Ray “hung up his medical bags” and started the Democrat in 1872, making the paper one of the oldest in the state. He called the ceremony a kind of homecoming, having attended senior high school and Southwest Missouri State College in Springfield.

He recounted some of his service for “Uncle Sam” in the military, serving in Key West and Japan, and how one of his photos of a base in Korea, “after we got our butts kicked” by Chinese soldiers, went into international distribution by the wire services. He commented the carnage had been preventable had Truman fired General Douglas McArthur earlier, before provoking the Chinese to enter the war.

“The newspaper put me in a position to know people like Ken Meuser,” Mitchell said. “He was one of my guides in industrial development.”

Mitchell went on to address current conditions of the news business.

“I don’t know a journalist worth their sale who would participate in ‘fake news,'" he said.

He asserted that democracy cannot exist without a vibrant press, and in his view, community journalists are needed today more than ever.

“God save the United States of America,” Mitchell said.

The audience responded by giving him a hearty standing ovation.

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