Late Courier columnist Joe Aaron to be inducted into Journalism Hall of Fame

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A humble, simple man who never knew he was great

— The late Joe Aaron, a longtime Evansville Courier reporter and columnist, is one of six journalists selected for induction this spring into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame.

The hall, begun in 1966 by the Society of Professional Journalists-Indiana Chapter, is based in the Indiana University School of Journalism at Bloomington where the induction ceremony will be held April 27.

In a letter nominating Aaron, Tim Ethridge, Evansville Courier & Press editor, wrote: “The unique thing about Joe, a winner of The National Headliners Club Award for Best Local Interest Column in 1962, is that his column still runs 26 years after his death of a heart attack at age 57 in the Courier newsroom.

Joe Aaron

Joe Aaron

“Shortly after becoming editor of the Courier & Press in April, I made an attempt to “retire” the Sunday reprint of his column (conservatively, he wrote around 7,000 in his career, many which now are part of five book compilations). Within two days, literally hundreds of readers let me know that I should retire first …

“His induction would play well in the southern reaches of the state, and is richly deserved.”

Tom Tuley, editor and president of The Evansville Press (1983-1986) and editor and president of the Evansville Courier (1986-1995), wrote: “It wasn’t awards and honors that distinguished Joe Aaron — it was the relationship he had with his readers.

“His columns could be humorous, pithy, nostalgic or sentimental, but each one came across as a personal conversation with the reader. Morning coffee with Joe was a daily and necessary ritual for thousands of readers in the Tri-State area.

“A humble, simple man, Aaron never knew he was great; but his readers knew it … He was, essentially, the face of the newspaper, and for many readers when that face vanished the newspaper was forever changed.”

“Because of continuous reader interest, for several years now the Courier & Press has been reprinting Joe’s columns in the newspaper’s Sunday edition.”

Aaron, a native of New Mexico, joined the Courier in 1955 after working for newspapers in New Mexico, Montana and Virginia. He began writing a five-days-a-week column for the Courier in 1957 and continued until his death in 1986.

Other 2013 inductees in the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame are:

n Melissa Farlow, a native of Paoli, Ind., an award-winning photojournalist for National Geographic and several newspapers. She graduated from Indiana University in 1973, after which she became a photographer for the Courier-Journal at Louisville, Ky. Her work chronicling riots over court-ordered school desegregation helped the Courier-Journal win the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography.

n The late Jerry Lyst, who was The Indianapolis Star’s editorial page editor for nearly half his 45 years with the newspaper.

n The late Lowell Mellett, an Elwood native who was a newspaper executive in Washington before becoming a top aide to President Franklin Roosevelt and later a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist.

n Jack Ronald, the longtime publisher of Portland’s Commercial Review who has made numerous trips to former Soviet republics to advocate an independent and free press.

n Paul Tash, a South Bend native who has been editor, CEO and chairman of the Tampa Bay Times and chairman of the board of trustees for the Poynter Institute.—aaron/

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