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John B. Anderson



John B. Anderson, who died last week at the age of 94, was the reason I got into the newspaper business.

I was fresh out of college in 1972 and without a job when the owner of the Storm Lake Register and Pilot-Tribune called the house several times to talk to me about taking a summer job. I didn’t return the calls.

One evening Dad came home and said, “I talked to John Anderson today and he said he was trying to get a hold of you for a summer job.”

“Yeah,” I replied. “I thought I’d take a few months to relax after college before I got a job.”

Dad wasn’t having any of that. “No son of mine is going to lay around the house without a job. You’d better call him.”

I took the hint and called JBA the next day. Despite my lack of experience he hired me for $100 a week to fill in as a sports writer and photographer.

I had planned to go into television production in the fall, but I found the newspaper business so interesting that when JBA offered me a full-time job at the end of the summer, I took it.

I really enjoyed the work but I thought JBA was a bit of a skinflint, so I started to look for other newspaper jobs in larger markets. I was offered a couple, including one at a good-sized daily in Owensboro, Ky., but after growing up a little and talking to others in journalism, I realized that John was a pretty good boss after all and over time, as he got his newspaper loans paid off, he could afford to be more generous. (Now that I’m a publisher, I can understand John’s motivations.)

I also stayed because there was a wonderful group of people with whom I worked, people like Phil Jarnagin, Bernie Seagren, Jim Adams, KC Ellis, Steve Herron, Curt Moritz, Joan Warnock, Gary Bonnett, Doug Laird, Malvina Yahnke, Marjorie Miller and a whole bunch of others whose names I can’t fit in this limited space.

After seven years in Storm Lake I accepted a job at a newspaper in Washington State. When I flew out there for the interview in February it was 10 below zero here and 70 above in Seattle. That convinced me to make the move.

But within a year I missed the Midwest and came back to Iowa and the town where I was born, Algona, to work at the newspaper there.

While I was in Algona JBA put the Storm Lake newspapers up for sale in 1980. We made a bid but Jerry Wiseman, the successful bidder, offered more. I stayed at Algona for a few more years and returned to Storm Lake to work for Wiseman as a feature writer and photographer. JBA retired.

John always wanted to be identified with his middle initial, B, to differentiate himself from John G. Anderson, who was a band director in the Storm Lake schools at the same time.

After we started The Times in 1990, JBA — a rock solid Republican — offered to write a column called “The Other Side” which offered a conservative’s response to our progressive editorials. We enjoyed joking about our different political views but actually we weren’t that far apart. John B. Anderson was a classic Republican in the mold of Robert Dole and Bob Ray, one who advocated for free markets and prudent spending while holding out a helping hand to the less fortunate in society.

John was a proud alumnus of Iowa State University, where he had earned a degree in agricultural journalism. In those days ISU had one of the top journalism programs in the country and its graduates served community newspapers across the state. John did his alma mater proud and served this community well as a country editor.