When Wilson came to town, big news was on the horizonWhen I left the Sioux Falls Argus Leader for the first time back in 1969 to take a job in Pierre with The Associated Press, the boss for the wire service was a guy named Jim Wilson.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
When I left the Sioux Falls Argus Leader for the first time back in 1969 to take a job in Pierre with The Associated Press, the boss for the wire service was a guy named Jim Wilson.
I had only two years of newspaper experience at the time, and all of that was either in photography or sports writing. I knew nothing about state politics or legislative procedure, and the closest I’d come to hanging around with a South Dakota governor was taking a photograph of Gov. Nils Boe when he was in Mitchell for some kind of celebration involving the completion of the Interstate 90 bridge that linked Chamberlain to Sioux Falls — and, by extension, I suppose, to Boston.
I was more than a little nervous about stepping into a political and government reporting position, sure. Mostly, though, I was nervous about working for Jim Wilson. He was like a god to me.
I came to learn that Jim was a Kimball kid who’d gone into the Marines, married, raised a family, and did all the other normal things that people in South Dakota and the rest of the country do. But I learned that later. What I knew when I first stepped into the AP bureau was that Jim Wilson was the same guy who used to write sports for the Mitchell Daily Republic.
Now, before you start thinking that isn’t such a big deal, think again. Jim was writing sports for The Daily Republic when I was competing in sports for Chamberlain High School. The Daily Republic was the daily newspaper of record for the Chamberlain area, and for a whole lot bigger stretch of country from down around Platte and Wagner out to Burke and Winner and Presho and Murdo and Kadoka. The paper carried scores and game write-ups from schools in all of the areas it covered, and once in a while, it sent a writer or photographer out to one of the towns to spotlight a key football or basketball matchup.
It wasn’t just sports, of course. For several years, The Daily Republic had a columnist named Les Helgeland. His regular features were must reading for subscribers. After I joined the AP, I met Les, who by then was editor of the Yankton Press and Dakotan. I think the first thing I said was, “Hey, you interviewed my big sister when she was a queen candidate at Chamberlain High School.”
The visits by the great ones were memorable in our small towns, and I’ll never forget the first night we were sitting in the stands at the Chamberlain Armory watching one of the early games when the word went through the crowd, “Hey, Jim Wilson from The Daily Republic is here.”
I think the next time I saw news of a celebrity’s presence spread as quickly through a crowd was when I covered the national Democratic nomination convention at Madison Square Garden and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis walked in and took a box seat to listen to the speeches. Every head in the place turned to see where Jackie O was sitting, just as nearly every head in the Chamberlain Armory turned to see Jim Wilson from The Daily Republic all those years earlier.
What we saw was a skinny young guy with horn-rimmed glasses and slicked-down red hair combed with a wave above the forehead. He was kneeling at the end of the basketball court. He held a thin notebook and the stub of a pencil in his hands, and a bulky camera with a big flash attachment lay on the tile next to his knee.
He may not have looked like much, but he represented The Daily Republic, and he was in town to cover our game. Holy cow.
I thought of that last Saturday after the River City Band Festival. After the awards were handed out, we saw the chamberlain drum major talking with a young guy who had a notebook and pen in his hands and a camera bag slung over his shoulder.
“Who was that?” I asked the drum major after Austin Kaus had finished his interview.
“I don’t know, but he’s from your paper, and he’s going to do a story about the festival,” she said. “Isn’t that something?”
Oh, yes. It was ever so when The Daily Republic came to town.
Terry Woster’s column appears Saturdays and Wednesdays in The Daily Republic.