Jon Hunter speaks in Sioux Falls, SD, at the 60th anniversary of SoDak Sports
I was in South Dakota in early October as a member of the Al Neuharth Media Center advisory board.
On Wednesday afternoon a group of us celebrated the 60th anniversary of SoDak Sports, Neuharth’s venture into sports journalism. He had just been graduated from the University of South Dakota when he began the sports newspaper.
SoDak Sports was a failure, but Neuharth said that failure taught him the lessons that enabled him to become the CEO of Gannett, the largest newspaper company in the nation, and the visionary who started USA Today.
I found the remarks of Jon M. Hunter to be fascinating. His grandfather printed SoDak Sports, and I thought you might like to see what the grandson said to the crowd:
My name is Jon Hunter, publisher of the Madison Daily Leader. SoDak Sports was printed on our press at Madison.
While I wasn’t there, my grandfather George and father Merrill were. My grandfather had purchased the Daily Leader just 5 years earlier, and my dad was fresh out of the Marine Corps, and was roughly the same age as Al.
As I looked at the first issue of SoDak Sports, it occurred to me how difficult it would be to put an edition together. Of course, the columns were set on Linotypes using hot lead. The press was a web letterpress. Photos were a huge deal, as they would need to be created on what was called a engraver.
In that first issue, my dad was listed as a “contributing editor” and Harlan Severson of the Daily Leader staff wrote a column on a poaching scandal.
Launching a publication like this typically starts from the love of journalism. And what a terrific time to be in sports journalism! Think of the stories in that first edition: Harold White being named coach of the year after leading Brookings to an unbeaten football season and a State A tournament title in basketball. The Claremont Honkers extending their football win streak to 53 games. The state B basketball tournament had 248 teams participating. The Northern League had two teams in South Dakota, the Aberdeen Pheasants and the Sioux Falls Canaries. And high school girls sports was just getting off the ground, with 25 teams playing organized basketball.
But think of the great sports journalism opportunities today! There are more sports than ever, full participation by girls, club teams for younger student-athletes. The Madison Daily Leader is living proof of the new opportunities: we provide live webcasts of all the football and basketball home games for the Madison Bulldogs.
Today’s opportunities in all subject matters and the love of journalism are why people are still starting new publications. Two new papers, the Gazette in Garretson, and the Native Sun News in Rapid City, are the newest newspapers in South Dakota, bringing the total to 199 weekly and 11 daily newspapers, the most per capita of any state in the nation. There are more specialty magazines and tabloids across our state than ever before.
Now, Al, I’ve been meaning to talk with you about unpaid bills. I don’t have the exact records, but let’s assume a $1,000 bill in 1954. I think it would be fair to charge some interest on that amount, let’s say 10 percent annually. I’m not taking advantage of South Dakota’s liberal usury laws, which would allow us to charge a higher rate. Anyway, at a very fair 10 percent rate, the total is now $251,638. A check would be just fine.