Long ago, in a town not far from here, I got my first full-time job as a newspaper reporter.
I was still in college at the time and living in Columbia when I got a call from Todd Wilson, the new sports editor at the Standard-Democrat in Sikeston. He needed another set of hands, and based on what he knew of me from my time working as a stringer for the Enterprise-Courier in Charleston, he thought I might be a good fit.
As it turned out, I was. I quickly transferred to Southeast Missouri State, found a cheap apartment in Bertrand, and got to work covering all manner of sports in southeast Missouri.
While Wilson made that initial phone call, the man who hired me was publisher and co-owner Michael Jensen, a veteran newspaperman with a solid background of his own as a reporter and columnist as well as a publisher.
I remember my time at the Standard-Democrat fondly. Working in the sports department as part of a team gave me the opportunity to hone my craft and learn the skills needed to provide accurate coverage on a daily deadline.
Eventually, Wilson moved on — to the Republic-Monitor, actually — and I was promoted to sports editor. The added responsibility was welcome and Jensen became something of a mentor as I grew into the role.
After a time, I was offered a job out east with better pay. Jensen helped me weigh the pros and cons and make up my mind.
Now, nearly 30 years later, Jensen has made up his own mind. He’s retiring after a lifetime — nearly 50 years — in the newspaper industry.
In an article published Tuesday in the Standard-Democrat, David Jenkins called it the “end of an era.”
The son of a Linotype operator, Jensen’s career began the year before I was born. Since 1970, he’s worked as a reporter, editor, columnist and publisher all over southeast Missouri and has helped launch two newspapers, including the Democrat Advertiser, which eventually merged with The Daily Standard to become the Standard-Democrat in 1989. Jensen served as publisher and co-owner until 2008, when the Standard-Democrat was purchased by Cape Girardeau-based Rust Media and continued as publisher thereafter.
After 49 years in the business, Jensen has seen many changes, from the arrival of electric typewriters to computers, from Linotype to offset printing, but he never lost sight of the most important thing.
“The one constant in this business is the reporting of the facts of a story,” Jensen said in Jenkins’ article.
That’s something I’ve always taken to heart.
As Wilson put it, “This guy showed me the importance — and fun — of community journalism.”
As for me. I’m glad to have had the chance to work with and for Jensen. I wish him nothing but the best in his retirement. It is truly the end of an era.
Robert Cox is an award-winning columnist and the managing editor of the Republic-Monitor. Write to him at email@example.com or P.O. Box 367, Perryville, MO 63775. He may be reached by phone at 573-547-4567.