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Ed Breen | The Journal Gazette
Dick and Harriett Inskeep have a lifetime’s commitment to Fort Wayne.

Guiding hand, steadying force

In 50 years, Inskeep has overseen many moves

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Dick Inskeep spent nearly 25 years as publisher.
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Inskeep meets Hubert Humphrey and Vance Hartke.

The white-haired, unassuming figure watched quietly from the wings last week while Fort Wayne Newspapers executives, Mayor Graham Richard and others extolled the virtues of the striking new Main Street building and the new printing press it houses.

In some ways, this was old hat for Dick Inskeep, the president of The Journal Gazette Co. and retired publisher of this newspaper. This was the second new building and fourth printing facility he’s seen in the 58 years he’s been associated with the morning newspaper.

Nor was his low-key demeanor unusual. As publisher, Inskeep was characterized by an economy of words and humility, yet proud of his newspaper’s achievements, quick to praise his staff for the accomplishments made possible by his steadfast preservation of local ownership of the community institution.

Now, a decade after stepping down as publisher, the long-awaited new presses were no longer a long-term plan. Finally, the newspaper he devoted his adult life to would have more color and clearer reproduction. And the building housing the presses is a striking addition that enhances the downtown of the city where Inskeep and his wife, Harriett, have not only made their home but worked tirelessly to improve – Dick Inskeep through the newspaper, his wife through work with various community organizations.

The modern, computer-operated presses in the majestic new downtown building are a far cry from the worn-out presses in an aging building just a few blocks away that greeted him when he first joined The Journal Gazette in 1949 as an inventory accountant. The presses rose from the basement to the second story of The Journal Gazette Building, a former farm-implement manufacturing plant at Clinton and Main streets.

“It was an old, dilapidated, rundown building,” he remembers.

He wasn’t there for long, though he would return many years later with an office there after a building rehabilitation that marked an earlier investment in downtown.

His next workplace was in what later became the Foellinger Building and United Way offices at East Washington Boulevard and Barr Street. In 1950, that was the home of the rival News-Sentinel. In an arrangement somewhat novel for its day, the owners of the two newspapers agreed to combine their business operations while retaining independence in each newspaper’s content.

Today, technology allows a newsroom to beam stories and photos miles away to a printing press (something Fort Wayne Newspapers could have done but rejected in locating the new press building downtown). Back then, though, the newsroom was where the presses were.

“That press was not a whole lot better, but it was a little more able to do the job, so they abandoned our press,” Inskeep recalled.

So a second floor was added to house The Journal Gazette’s newsroom, and the afternoon paper’s presses printed both publications.

Before presses run the paper, words have to be set in type. In those days, Linotypes – large, heavy, loud machines – produced the newspaper’s type, line by line, using hot metal. Lined up one after another, the machines banged letters into words and words into sentences, producing a clanging of permanence that announced the making of the next day’s paper. Any newspaperman of the era remembers those machines with fondness, and Inskeep is no exception as he recalls the heavy bars and melting pots posted at each machine to heat the metal.

Eventually, technology produced cheaper and safer – though more sterile – ways of typesetting, rendering the Linotypes obsolete.

“The major change was going from the hot type to the cold type,” Inskeep remembers.

Eight years after The Journal Gazette crowded into its news rival’s building, the two newspapers moved to a new structure on Main Street.

That was Dick Inskeep’s first experience with brand- new presses, nearly five decades ago.

As technology expanded, so did Inskeep’s career, as he served a long apprenticeship to prepare him for the newspaper’s top role.

Inskeep came to The Journal Gazette at the suggestion of his wife’s uncle, Virgil Simmons, the newspaper’s co-publisher. Both Wells County natives, Dick and Harriett Inskeep were moving to Fort Wayne fresh from Bloomington and Indiana University.

His first assignment led him to every part of the old building – he was to inventory every piece of equipment there. Not the kind of start that would portend his role in keeping and strengthening The Journal Gazette’s family ownership – now 144 years and counting – far into the future.

Over the years, Inskeep worked in virtually all of the newspaper’s departments, both on the business side and in the newsroom, where he eventually became managing editor. In 1973, he was named publisher.

Inskeep’s low-key demeanor belied his staunch support for freedom of the press and willingness to go to court to pry public information from officials trying to shield it.

The Hoosier State Press Association recognized that steadfast support for the First Amendment with its rarely given First Freedom Award in 1996.

“Dick Inskeep, I think, probably went through his entire quarter of a century as publisher showing people not to underestimate his commitment to The Journal Gazette,” said Craig Klugman, whom Inskeep hired as the newspaper’s editor in 1982. “He dealt with angry advertisers and upset readers (who were often his good friends) with the same open, friendly manner. But he never backed down.”

Over the years, while technology changed, the talent of the newspaper’s staff remained consistently high. Many were up-and-coming journalists who later achieved widespread acclaim at top publications, such as Gene Miller, who went on to win Pulitzer Prizes at the Miami Herald, and award-winning cartoonist Steve Sack, whose work for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune still appears regularly in the newspaper.

Inskeep has demonstrated and inspired deep loyalty among many employees, reflected by the long tenures of innumerable journalists, such as Cliff Milnor, writer Dell Ford and editor Frank Roberts.

Inskeep retired as publisher in 1997, handing the reins to his daughter, Julie.

Under her leadership, he proudly notes, the newspaper has added space and staff.

As company president, he remains close to the business, and both Dick and Harriett Inskeep took joy in celebrating the opening of the press building last week.

“He is, I suspect, the only person still active in Fort Wayne newspapering who has worked in all three newspaper buildings – the current one, on Main Street; the old News-Sentinel Building, across from the YMCA; and, of course, the Journal Gazette Office Building, on Clinton,” Klugman said. “Now he has cut the ribbon on one of the most modern newspaper printing plants in the country. That is one hell of a career.”

Even as the new press brings improved print quality and demonstrates a long-term investment in both newspapers and in downtown Fort Wayne, the Internet and other factors are rapidly changing the industry. Yet Inskeep – who as publisher supported the staff’s first forays into computer-assisted reporting – remains optimistic about the future of both The Journal Gazette and newspapers.

“I think they’re here to stay. Maybe in a little bit different format. People I talk to, at least, they can’t get enough of what’s going on by watching television. That’s a quick fix. Then they have to go to the newspaper to see what really happened.

“I have a lot of confidence we will continue.”

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