The Wisconsin Newspaper Association Foundation inducted five new members to the Wisconsin Newspaper Hall of Fame during a banquet on Thursday, Nov. 10, at The Madison Club in Madison, Wisconsin.
Inductees included Peter Fox, a former editor of The (Racine) Journal Times who served as director of the WNA from 2004 to 2010, and Chuck Gauger, who retired as general manager of the Trempealeau County Times in 2019 after a nearly 50-year career in newspapers. Three inductees were honored posthumously. They included Emma Brown, co-founder of Fort Atkinson’s first newspaper and the state’s first successful female publisher, Dickey Chapelle, a pioneering journalist and photographer known for her work as a war correspondent, and Phil Muench, a longtime pressman at the Grant County Herald Independent who died in 2020 following a battle with COVID-19.
Also honored during the event was Oneida County Sheriff Grady Hartman, who was given the WNA’s inaugural Sunshine in Government Award, which recognizes efforts by Wisconsin citizens and public officials to protect and strengthen open government.
WNA Executive Director Beth Bennett, WNA Foundation president Scott Peterson and WNA president Pat Reilly served as masters of ceremonies. Sponsors included ArcaSearch, The Edgerton Reporter and the Wisconsin Grocers Association.
Emma Brown known for being an independent, trailblazing female publisher
Emma Brown, co-founder of The (Fort Atkinson) Wisconsin Chief and the first successful female editor and publisher in Wisconsin, was inducted posthumously into the Hall of Fame.
A tribute to the trailblazing publisher, who advocated for temperance and women’s rights and helped W.D. Hoard get his Jefferson County Union off the ground, quoted from an 1872 newspaper article featuring Brown:
“She possesses consider ability, a keen, trenchant wit, and the same zeal and earnestness that distinguished Thurlow.
“She is a practical businesswoman, too; keeps her own books, collects her own bills, supports for office whomever she pleases, and in a pinch steps in the composing room and sets in type the editorial she has written.
“She is a self-poised, capable, dignified, sincere, earnest woman, who respects herself and compels the respect and confidence of others.”
When Brown died in 1889, The Wisconsin Chief had been in publication for 40 years and was the oldest temperance newspaper in the United States.
Pioneering journalist Dickey Chapelle was an inspiration for many
Shorewood native Dickey Chapelle, a pioneering journalist and photographer known for her work as a war correspondent from World War II through the Vietnam War, also was inducted posthumously.
Chapelle’s niece Martha Rosemeyer and nephew Robert Meyer shared stories of their adventuresome and glamorous aunt. Despite her limited visits before being killed in 1965 while on patrol with a platoon in Vietnam, she left a lasting impression.
Meyer recalled practicing parachuting techniques by jumping from the stairs of their home after Chapelle became the first female reporter to jump with troops in Vietnam. She also introduced her young protégés to pastimes she picked up from Marines she was embedded with as a war correspondent.
“At the tender age of 8, I learned about craps and poker,” Meyer said. “She was a remarkable woman and just an aunt that any young boy would love to have.”
Rosemeyer shared details of Chapelle’s more feminine side, including Chapelle’s hairstyles, signature pearl earrings and “expertise in the attachment of delicate false eyelashes” that fascinated her and her two sisters.
“As my father would say, she was not a female Rambo,” she said. “As a female war correspondent, she was able to hold her own in all the activities of the Marines and, indeed, was loved by them. She was inducted into the Marines posthumously. And she was also a very cosmopolitan woman.”
Chapelle, who was the first American woman reporter to be killed in action, served as an inspiration to many female war correspondents who came after her — and she left her mark on her niece and nephew as well.
“Our infrequent interactions left a really huge impression and she has continued to inspire us to find our own respective paths over these last 60 years since her death,” Rosenmeyer said.
Peter Fox helped strengthen the newspaper industry as journalist, advocate
Peter Fox, who served as editor of The (Racine) Journal Times and executive director of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, was joined by his family and many former colleagues from the various roles he held throughout his career.
Fox’s service to Wisconsin newspapers has come in many forms. During college, he served as a copy editor and assistant city editor at the Wisconsin State Journal before being named editor of The Journal Times.
In 2004, he was named executive director of the WNA. During his tenure, he made significant growth in membership, acted as a leading advocate for open records and meetings and helped pass the state’s Whistleblower Protection Act. He also launched Wisconsin’s free public notice website and digital newspaper archive.
He also served on the boards of the UW School of Journalism and Mass Communications and the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council.
In a recent interview with the UW School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Fox, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UW-Madison and later worked as the public information director for the UW System, said his journalism education had been key to every aspect of his adult professional life.
“The greatest satisfaction I have regarding this award is how I built my career from having my hometown weekly newspaper publisher giving me assignments while I was in high school to my journalism education at SJMC, and various positions in the newsroom leading up to editor-in-chief, and then continuing to engage my journalism education in venues outside the newsroom,” Fox said.
Charles Gauger’s leadership helped to strengthen western Wisconsin newspapers
Charles “Chuck” Gauger was recognized Thursday for his work helping weekly newspapers in western Wisconsin join forces to stay profitable and provide strong, reliable local news.
Gauger began working at his father’s Whitehall Times as a child and was named publisher of the newspaper in 1989.
In one of several efforts to grow the newspaper and serve readers, Gauger purchased the Independence News-Wave in 2002 and merged it with the Times.
In 2010, he sold the Times to the Black Earth, Wis.-based News Publishing Company and continued to serve as general manager, overseeing the newspaper’s merger with the Arcadia News-Leader and the Galesville Republican into the Trempealeau County Times. At a time when many community newspapers were struggling, his leadership helped to provide Trempealeau County with strong local coverage.
During the induction ceremony, Gauger recalled a memory from his childhood. Upon walking into a local cafe for a newsstand delivery when he was 12, someone called him over.
“[He] said, ‘Show me your hands,’” Gauger said. “My hands were black, with fresh ink. My forearms were pretty black, too.”
In front of everyone, the man loudly announced “Be careful, young man. You might get it in your blood.”
But it was already too late …
Pressman Phil Muench was devoted to his craft, those around him
Longtime Wisconsin pressman Phil Muench, who died in 2020 after an extended battle with COVID-19, was honored posthumously for his expertise and dedication while working more than three decades for the (Lancaster) Grant County Herald Independent and Morris Newspapers of Wisconsin.
“So many times people get caught up about ranks and titles, but Phil was about working together, and that attitude spread amongst all of us and it added to great collaboration,” said David Timmerman, who nominated Muench and is editor of the Herald-Independent.
Holly Muench accepted a plaque on behalf of her late husband and shared a story that further reflected his enthusiasm for his craft.
Muench had taken her to a Madison steakhouse for a Valentine’s Day dinner — and he’d brought an issue of the paper. He was excited to show her his first four-color printing.
“I told him to leave it in the truck and I would look at it later,” she said. “But he insisted and he took it inside.
“Once seated and after ordering wine, he handed the paper to me and, truthfully, I was embarrassed — and he knew it.
“I obliged. I opened it up to look at his new color job, and that’s where I saw his marriage proposal. Needless to say, I was no longer embarrassed, and the four-color print job was pretty impressive.”
Oneida County Sheriff honored for government transparency efforts
Oneida County sheriff Grady Hartman was the recipient of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association’s inaugural Sunshine in Government award, which was launched earlier this year to recognize efforts by Wisconsin citizens and public officials to protect and strengthen open government.
In 2019, Hartman launched an investigation into allegations that the Rhinelander city administrator had tampered with public records. It culminated in the execution of search warrants at Rhinelander City Hall.
“When that happens in a community, everybody adheres to the open records law,” Gregg Walker, publisher of The (Minocqua) Lakeland Times and WNA past president, said during introductory remarks. Walker nominated Hartman for the award.