Thoughts on the man who gave 'em hell

I think it would have been quite a thing to sit and listen to Ferrell Shuck and Wilbur F. Storey sit and opine over a beer or two.

Storey was the fiery editor and owner of such papers as the Free Press and the Times in Detroit and Chicago. He once famously exclaimed, “It is the newspaper’s duty to print and news and raise hell.”

I cannot agree with that statement more wholeheartedly.


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This week, we lost a news icon. A newspaper legend. A man who ensured local news was not only relevant and topical, but that it would endure through attacks on the free press, through questioning city officials and would live up the highest responsibility of a local, community-minded, family-owned newspaper.

His soap box is displayed at the Do Drop Inn as a reminder of his years of service. His countless hours not just being in his community, but a part of it. And for the fiery nature in which he would often share his opinion, either through the printed word or in person during a game of pool with a beverage nearby.

The unspoken Ferrell Shuck rule lives on today: if there’s a drink in your hand, it’s off the record.

I never worked for Ferrell. But during my decade at The Examiner, I sure knew Ferrell and the outstanding paper he ran in Lee’s Summit. I will never forget the warning I received once from a Journal employee about selling ads in Lee’s Summit while at that Independence/Blue Springs newspaper. We were inching into Lee’s Summit, and it wasn’t going unnoticed by Ferrell.

I took the caution in stride and eventually met Ferrell at a Lee’s Summit event. I think I even apologized for the misgiving. Then, I was off to Iowa to run my own papers.

When I returned to Missouri — specifically to be the publisher of the Lee’s Summit Journal — Ferrell was there immediately to not only give me the scoop on the place, but to offer a few sage words of advice. Those are words I cherished and held with me during my days sitting at his desk at the office on 415 SE Douglas St.

That was Ferrell’s office. I never forgot that. The four or five publishers that separated Ferrell’s time at the helm and mine notwithstanding, I understood that the building, the legacy and the commitment to local news was something uniquely attributable to Ferrell Shuck.

As I settled into the community and into the Journal, Ferrell would pop in every once in a while to weigh in on a story (or a story we hadn’t run yet) and occasionally offer up his own letter to the editor, which I was always eager to publish.

Ferrell’s spirit and impact on the Journal walked the halls of that building far after the time he retired. I honestly tried my best to keep his mission of community journalism in mind during my time at the helm. Sometimes I reached that goal, sometimes I fell short. But the opportunity to print twice a week, write a column, report the news, bring up young journalists and be the voice and history of the community was never lost on me and something that was absolutely built by Ferrell and his family.

After a few years, we decided it was time to permanently bring Ferrell into the Journal building, dedicating our conference room in his name and celebrating with the Shuck family and a few hundred members of the community.

Staff meetings, interviews and other conference room work would now be done with the man that ran and owned the Journal — a Missouri Press Association Hall of Famer, in fact — looking over us every day.

If we could have named the whole damn block for him, we would have.

I cannot imagine how much Ferrell was missed at the Journal when he retired. And those same feelings of loss are felt now with his passing.

But we are fortified and heartened by what he built, the honorable newspaper he ran and the monumental impact he had on journalism in Lee’s Summit.

Ferrell gave us all a little hell. And, my God, we are so much better off for it.

 

Editor's Note: John Beaudoin is a Lee's Summit resident and award winning writer and former newspaper publisher in the Lee's Summit community. Views and opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily reflect those of Link 2 Lee's Summit, it's employees or any other guest contributors.