Archive for November 2008

Robert M. White II, renowned journalist, dies

November 21, 2008

Funeral services for Robert M. White II, former publisher of the Mexico Ledger, are scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 25, at the First Presbyterian Church in Mexico, MO.  The church is located at the corner of Lakeview Road and Business 54 South.  Family visitation will be held after the services.

Robert M. White II, renowned journalist, dies

MEXICO, Mo. (AP) — Robert M. White II, the former editor and publisher of The Mexico Ledger and a press-freedom advocate whose career took him from war zones to the world’s media capital, has died. He was 93.

White, who had been ill for some time, died Thursday at a Columbia hospital.

While serving as editor, publisher and president of the Ledger from 1945-86, White also worked in nearly every major newspaper organization to promote freedom of the press.

White had a particular interest in foreign affairs and traveled the world, reporting for Missourians about his experiences in war zones and his interviews with world leaders and rebels.

He was an active member and eventually an officer in what is now known as the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Conference of Editorial Writers, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, American Newspaper Publishers Association, the Missouri Press Association, the Washington Institute on Foreign Affairs, the Inland Daily Press Association and The World Press Freedom Committee.

That resume earned him a prominent spot in an upcoming public television documentary about the history of Missouri newspapers.

“I think there’s nothing I would like better than to be remembered as a newspaperman. Period. And I could put an adjective in front of that. As a good newspaperman. And not try to define it further than that,” White said in 2005 as part of an oral history project excerpted in the upcoming documentary. “Yeah. A good newspaperman. … I would be pleased with that. You got a stone here? Let’s carve it.”

White was a member of the board of directors of The Associated Press from 1971-1980, chairing the board’s broadcast committee.

“Bob White was a wonderful man and a consummate journalist whose contributions to his city, his state, his country and the world were profound.” said Paul Stevens, Central Region vice president for The Associated Press. “He was proud of his service to the AP in his nine years on our board of directors, and the AP and our members were well-served by Bob. So were all the other organizations Bob so selflessly served. We are thankful for his contributions.”

White was born in Mexico on April 6, 1915 and was a graduate of the Missouri Military Academy. He graduated with a history degree from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., where he played on the football team. The university awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1972 for his freedom of the press advocacy.

White was the son and grandson of the owners of The Ledger and began his career there as a carrier. In the 1930s he worked as a reporter for The Ledger and later reported for United Press International in Kansas City.

During World War II, he served on the staff of Gen. Robert Eichelberger and Gen. Douglas MacArthur and was a liaison with Australian forces in New Guinea.

While still working as editor of the Ledger, White also served as special consultant to Marshall Field, then publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times, from 1956-58 and was president and editor of the New York Herald Tribune from 1959-61. His front-page editorial, “A Letter to Mr. Krushchev,” was published in English and Russian and won the Silurian award for best New York City editorial in 1960.

White returned to Mexico in 1961. He founded See TV in 1966, the first cable television operation in central Missouri, and he sold it in 1981.

White received the Society of Professional Journalists’ Distinguished Service Award for editorials in 1952 and 1967, and in 1970 won its Wells Memorial Key for distinguished service to journalism. He also was a Pulitzer Prize juror from 1964-65 and was chairman of the American Committee of the International Press Institute from 1982-85.

Along with his Kansas City UPI colleague, Walter Cronkite, White was the oldest finalist chosen to be NASA’s Journalist in Space in 1986 at age 71; the flight was canceled after the shuttle Columbia disaster.

In 1999, White followed his father, L.M White, and grandfather, Col. Robert M. White, into the Missouri Press Association’s Hall of Fame. They were the first three-generation recipients of the University of Missouri’s Distinguished Service to Journalism Award.

White also served on numerous state, city of Mexico and private organizations across the state.

He sold The Ledger in 1986 and moved to Washington, D.C., before returning to Columbia in 2002.

White was married to the late Barbara Spurgeon White for 34 years; three other marriages ended in divorce. He is survived by four children, Barbara W. McClain of Leawood, Kan.; Jane See White of Tucson, Ariz.; Laura W. Erdel of Columbia; R. Mitchell White III of Dallas and six grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the First Presbyterian Church in Mexico, with a visitation following the service


Judge throws out new law setting state record fees

November 18, 2008


JEFFERSON CITY | A Cole County judge has thrown out an attempt by the state legislature to mandate fees for access to motor-vehicle records.

The ruling voids a hastily written law passed last spring, on the grounds that it violated constitutional requirements that a bill have a single subject that is clearly explained in its title.

The bill to which lawmakers added the language related solely to property-tax issues.

At issue is a planned technological upgrade for databases containing motor-vehicle and driver records kept by the state Department of Revenue.

The department recently entered into an agreement with BearingPoint Inc., a technology consulting firm, to upgrade its database systems. To finance the project, the department and the company agreed to charge $7 for each record accessed through the new system, with no discount for bulk purchases.

That upset auto insurers and other companies that purchase records on a regular basis to update insurance rates and track vehicle histories, among other purposes. The companies were accustomed to buying records in bulk for less than a penny per record, and said the change would put them out of business in Missouri.

Responding to the businesses’ concerns, lawmakers in the final week of the legislative session amended an existing property-tax bill to restrict bulk record prices to half a cent per record.

BearingPoint sued in July to have the law overturned.

“What we were trying to do was make sure the Department of Revenue had the flexibility to calculate the true cost of creating a record, and not be bound by what the legislature said it should be,” said Chuck Hatfield, a Jefferson City attorney representing BearingPoint.

Even with Monday’s ruling, however, the department cannot charge the $7 per record as planned.

In June, another Cole County judge ruled that the $7 fee violated the state’s Sunshine Law, which prohibits the state from charging anymore for a record than the copy costs and staff time required to produce it.

Winning Essays Debate Pros, Cons of Press Conferences November Contest Asks For Transparency Suggestions

November 18, 2008

A winner has been named for each of the two positions in October’s Sunshine Week Citizen Journalism Award on the Web site. The first of these essays framed as a “yes” or “no” debate, the competition asked: Should government candidates be required to hold press conferences and answer questions from the media and the public?

The “yes” essay was penned by Erin Knight of Ontario, Canada, who called press conferences “essential” to helping voters determine which candidate will “best serve the needs and protect the rights” of the people.

“For voters to make an informed and unbiased decision, press conferences need to be implemented as part of a political campaign,” Knight wrote. “Those candidates who are up to the government task at hand and have a solid platform will stand firm, while those whose platforms are flawed and cracked will be weeded out as undesirable.”

Making the winning “no” argument was Justin Almeida, a Peace Corps volunteer serving in Romania and writing under the byline Paxus. Almeida called forced Q & A sessions “utterly redundant” and “no different from our televised debates or paid-for TV spots.”

“Internet and mass media have made it easier and more efficient to research, collaborate with, and debate about our elected officials,” he wrote. “Who know who they are, where they come from, what their favorite food is, how much they spend on clothing, who they hung out with in junior high school, what religion they subscribe to, their racial background, how many houses they own, and much more. Because of this, mandatory press conferences are just not needed. They have been rendered obsolete.”

Read all 35 essays on both sides of the debate on the Web site. As of this posting, 205 members voted on the debate, with 79 percent choosing “yes” and 21 percent opting for “no.”

The November essay contest, which closes Dec. 17, asks: What do you think the Obama administration’s priorities for transparent government should be? Read more on the Sunshine Week site about what experts are suggesting to improve government openness. Sunshine Week’s essay contests are open to amateur and professional writers alike.