Sometimes the news comes slow.
Jake Sorenson at the Daily Utah Chronicle sent out a notice that Ernie Ford died last night. Cardiac issues. He was 70, after all — young by today’s standards, and not yet used up.
Ford was adjunct faculty and adviser to the Chronicle when I wrote there, and took classes from him. Ford and Roy Gibson were veterans of Utah journalism who could offer a couple of chapters of a textbook they never wrote on how to write well, and how to write good news stories — with just their markups, questions and corrections in the margins of the news story one had to meet deadline on.
Gibson died several years ago.
More than once I regretted that I had to send the copy, with Ford’s comments, off to “typesetting” in the backshop, knowing I’d never see it again. We didn’t have a photocopier to just make another copy.
Details to come, Jake said. We’re losing more than just old, established newspapers. We’re losing the men and women who made the news, news, and made the news readable, and understandable.
Ford made his reputation at KSL Television News and the Salt Lake Tribune. Here’s a 1989 story on his leaving KSL to move to a Dallas station. Sometime after that he moved on to run the Society of Professional Journalists, in Indiana. Details on Ford’s life and death to follow, but probably no film at 11:00.
When enough of the big trees fall, you can’t call it a forest any more, you know?
DePauw University put out a release on Ernie Ford:
Former Prof. Ernie Ford Passes Away at Age 70
June 2, 2011, Greencastle, Ind. — Ernest J. “Ernie” Ford Jr., a respected journalist and former member of the DePauw University faculty, passed away yesterday. He was 70 years old.
Ford was born on June 7, 1940, in Salt Lake City, and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from the University of Utah. After a lengthy career in print and broadcast journalism, Ford came to Greencastle in the spring of 1992 when he was named executive director of the Society for Professional Journalists (SPJ). The organization, which was founded by student journalists at DePauw University as Sigma Delta Chi (SDX) in 1909, is the nation’s most broad-based journalism organization. SPJ had its national headquarters in Greencastle in the 1990s.
“Ernie Ford was selected because of his strong management experience in broadcast and print journalism,” said Georgiana Vines, assistant managing editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel and chair of the search committee, when Ford’s appointment was announced.
Ford had served as SPJ’s national president during 1991-92 before taking a paid post with the organization. He became a member of SPJ’s national board of directors in 1984, when he was elected Region 9 director, and served as chair of the Ethics Committee, Publication Committee, and the Legal Defense Fund.
A regular lecturer to students in journalism classes and members of the DePauw Media Fellows program, Ford served as a part-time instructor in University Studies during the 2001-02 academic year. Ernie Ford and his wife, Linda, who survives, are also known to a generation of DePauw students as owners of the Fine Print Bookstore, which they operated on Greencastle’s square for 15 years.
He also served as an adjunct instructor at the University of Utah, Brigham Young University and Utah State University.
“Ernie was a great teacher who helped his students understand the media industry and journalism,” recalls Andrew Tangel, a 2003 DePauw graduate and former editor of The DePauw who now a reporter at New Jersey’s Bergen Record. “A former investigative reporter himself, he seemed to relish asking tough questions at public meetings on campus and in town. He passed along tips to student journalists and encouraged them to be aggressive, hard-nosed reporters.”
Before coming to Indiana, Ford’s journalism career which included stints as managing editor of KSL-TV in Salt Lake City, assistant news director of KDFW-TV in Dallas, assistant city editor of the Salt Lake Tribune, wire editor of the Idaho Post-Register in Idaho Falls, and general assignment reporter for the Deseret News in Salt Lake City. He collected numerous journalism awards, including a 1980 Sigma Delta Chi award for broadcast public service, regional Emmys, the Eudora Welty Award and the DuPont Award. A strong advocate for the First Amendment and the rights of journalists, Ford testified before Congress in support of the Freedom of Information Act and organized a a petition drive that led move the U.S. Supreme Court to permit still cameras in the courtroom.
In 2006, Ford was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Daily Utah Chronicle, the University of Utah’s student newspaper, where he cuts his reporting teeth as an undergraduate and later served as faculty adviser.
Ford served on the boards of the Putnam County Humane Society, Great Lakes Booksellers Association, served of president of Main Street Greencastle, and was a longtime supporter of the Putnam County Playhouse.
A celebration of Ernie Ford’s life will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Putnam County Playhouse, 715 South County Road 100 East, Greencastle.
An obituary is accessible at the website of Greencastle’s Banner-Graphic.