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Columbia Missourian

DEAR READER: A fond farewell for a retiring Missourian advocate

By Tom Warhover
April 27, 2012 | 4:29 p.m. CDT

Dear Reader,

On Sunday, July 20, 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong took "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" by stepping foot on the moon's surface.

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A graduate student at the helm of the Columbia Missourian that day figured it was news. Big news. So big, in fact, that the student helped convince the general manager to publish the newspaper's first "extra" edition, because at that time (and now) there was no Monday edition. Then that skinny, bespectacled student created another Missourian first by printing the edition using color on the front page. 

There were no pressmen, no deliveries — all the paid workers were off on Sundays. So on Monday, July 21, 1969, students took to the streets, hawking papers the old-fashioned way.

The 2,000-copy press run sold out in an hour.

That graduate student, Brian S. Brooks, captivated this generation of students Friday morning at the Missourian's daily news meeting.

This is the generation that never knew of life before the Web. The first man on the moon is the stuff of history books, even those outdated ones gathering mold on some back shelf of a public school library.

Yet the motivations — get the news to our community, get the news right and get the news first — haven't changed all that much in nearly four decades.

Missourian staff and students honored Brian, associate dean at the Missouri School of Journalism, for his many years of work at and for your newspaper.

He got that master's degree and went out into the newspaper world. He returned to MU — and the Missourian — in 1974, and served for many years as copy desk chief. You might not have known him then; you don't see the bylines of copy editors with articles, and I'm told he was a quiet fellow, except at Missouri games. Brian was also the Missourian's top editor, and long after he left for other journalism school duties, he remained a fierce (and not so quiet) advocate for this publication.

I know that won't change. Ever.

But now, after 39 years at the School of Journalism, Brian is retiring. It's a great time to tell old stories of journalism done right. On Friday, the other moment Brian recalled was the time your newspaper beat out St. Louis and Kansas City papers for the Missouri Press Association's top investigative story of the year.

Did I mention he's competitive?

On April 24, 1980, President Jimmy Carter ordered a rescue of 52 Americans held hostage in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran. Brian was the news editor that day. The next morning, he asked a photographer to take a picture of a row of boxes displaying front pages from newspapers.

Only the Missourian had the news of the failed attempt.

Thanks for your passion and dedication to the profession and to your students, Brian.

Tom

Tom Warhover is the executive editor of the Missourian. Contact him by email at warhovert@missouri.edu or by phone at 882-5734.