By RONNIE ELLIS
Joel Wilson, the long-time editor of The Glasgow Daily Times, retired Friday after 50 years. He served the last four as editor emeritus. Before that, Joel served as editor for more than 40 years, during which he practiced community journalism long before the term was in fashion.
He loved the paper and he loved his community. Lord knows, no one knew more about that community than Joel. He knew everyone in the county, knew what they did for a living and knew their relatives. He understood their hopes and tribulations. He knew the place’s history. He knew every little corner of the county, too. Joel could instantly provide directions to any place in the county when I asked how to find an address on a road I’d never heard of — despite having grown up in Barren County.
I once heard another reporter say his boss was “the most loyal person I’ve ever worked for, but he’s more loyal up the ladder than he is down the ladder.” Not Joel. He was loyal to employers but he stuck by those who worked for him. He put up with a lot from the assortment of characters and eccentrics who passed through the newsroom over all those years. I can’t imagine he put up with more from any of them than from me.
Joel hired me twice when no one else would. He might have saved my life the second time. He stood by me many, many times when I didn’t deserve his loyalty. He protected my job from irate school superintendents, county officials, advertisers — and occasionally publishers. Sometimes, he did it by shouldering responsibility for my errors in judgment. When I did something right, it was often because of his advice or direction. He somehow persuaded himself, his bosses, and my co-workers my contributions somehow out-weighed my short-comings. When I needed time for my children, Joel covered for me and them.
He helped teach me patience and a sense of fairness, that I didn’t always have sole possession of “The Truth.” He restrained me when I went too far but always encouraged me to go as far as I could to give readers information they needed to judge the performance of their public officials and the way they conducted the public’s business. He made me better at my job. And I wasn’t the only one.
Joel began work at the Daily Times in 1957 for owner and publisher Carroll Knicely but ended up working for two corporations and a succession of publishers. He managed the paper’s daily reporting on Glasgow and Barren County through personnel changes, ownership changes, good and lean times. He saw talent in people he hired and managed, people like Bill Luster, Fred Ganter, Gordon Crump, Mary Ann (Lyons) Gerth, Donna (Buckles) Stinnett, Debbie Harvey, Connie Pickett, Daniel Price, Loy Milam, Gina Kinslow, Stacy Neitzel and Daniel Pike. He helped them succeed. And when they succeeded, Joel stood back, giving them the credit.
Joel became the face of the Glasgow Daily Times and it long ago became impossible for me to separate the two. All who worked for him, the paper, its owners and the community he served so well, will always be indebted to Joel Wilson.
Neither the paper nor the community will ever seem quite the same.
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. He may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.