Bob McKee, whose contribution to community journalism in the Owensville area spanned more than 45 years working for the Warden Publishing family, died peacefully Sept. 14 at his “west …
Bob McKee, whose contribution to community journalism in the Owensville area spanned more than 45 years working for the Warden Publishing family, died peacefully Sept. 14 at his “west Bem” residence following a lengthy illness.
McKee worked as a staff photojournalist, reporter, editor, and later managing editor, from Oct. 4, 1972, through his retirement on Jan. 10, 2007. His weekly “Going South” column appeared for more than 16 years, ending with the Jan. 24, 2018, edition.
By his own account, his column which examined local issues and occasionally poked fun at the mishaps of friends and hunting acquaintances, ran for 852 weeks.
He was involved with producing photographs and news content for 1,778 issues over 34 years and three months as a member of the The Republican’s staff. He continued contributing his column for another 576 issues until his final piece, “A great ride but here’s the end of the road,” appeared in January 2018.
In all, McKee’s work appeared in 2,354 issues of this community’s newspaper. His stories included coverage of environmental threats from illegal scrapping operations, successful local efforts to halt expansion of a landfill north of Owensville, historic local and Missouri River flooding, a snowstorm which required assistance from the National Guard to clear roadways, and a tornado which heavily damaged the Landwehr subdivision south of town.
The title of his column came from his typical exit line for the day — “I’m going south.”
His wooded acreage in the Bem community provided him his hunting escape — turkey, deer and mushrooms.
His hunting trips locally and out west were frequent topics for his column — and not all were successful, he would often note. But, they made for fun stories. The successes, or lack of success and exploits among his hunting friends, was often a source of humor and good-natured ribbing in his column.
As a retired Owensville Volunteer Fire Department member, he often joked he was hesitant to burn a brush pile if he didn’t have enough beer on hand to supply thirsty firemen if he needed to call them to help extinguish it if — or when — it got away from him.
“It has been a fun and rewarding experience,” McKee wrote in his final piece. “I hope this column has entertained people, made some laugh and made some think, which is about all that a writer can ask.”
He successfully made the transition from darkroom photography to digital imaging before he retired. He shared his transition from typewriters to “primitive computers” in his final column.
“I was fortunate enough to be part of newspaper production from the times of painstakingly putting one together piece by piece to doing it all on a computer,” he wrote in 2018. “When I started at The Republican as a reporter and photojournalist in 1972, I was given a manual typewriter to write my stories from covering news events in Owensville and around Gasconade and Franklin counties. That evolved into a great advance, I thought, when they put an electric typewriter in front of me.”
McKee’s words and photographs left their impact in numerous award-winning entries for The Republican in Missouri Press Association competitions. The newspaper won Community Service Awards in 1974, 1976 and 1977, and 1994 and 1995.
In 1995, The Republican was the recipient of the Gold Cup award from the MPA for receiving the most award points for small weekly newspapers. It placed second in 1998.
The Republican was honored for Best Use of Local Photographs in 1989 and 1993. Best News Content was awarded to the paper in 1990 and 1991 and again in 2004. The Republican was recognized for General Excellence in 1987, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2005.
When the newspaper didn’t win the award for General Excellence outright, there were often years where The Republican was recognized with a place award (third in 2003) or honorable mention (2004) in the category which judged the entire content of three issues throughout a given year.
McKee coined the term “Generally Excellent” in years where we settled for a place award instead of the first-place honor.
“We’re Generally Excellent, I guess,” he once said.
That term applies again this year as both The Republican and The Maries County Advocate received third-place awards for General Excellence in the 2022 MPA contest.
McKee was a mentor and the leader of this newspaper staff for more than 30 years.
In 2003, responding to a reader’s concerns over what they believed was “sensationalized” news coverage about suspects fleeing prosecution from methamphetamine-related drug crimes, McKee wrote the editorial “Not always a fun job.”
“Writing about crime and mayhem is not one of the more pleasant aspects of reporting the news in a small town,” he wrote. “Everyone knows everyone. Given chance, most journalists would rather write nothing but good news. Unfortunately, that is not how life goes. There is crime, there are tragic accidents. Writing about those incidents is not always easy, and never pleasant.”
McKee did it well, fairly, and was “Generally Excellent” over 2,354 consecutive weeks as a local newsman.
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