For the past 13 years the Independent’s page of opinion has carried the name of our Editor Bill Dunn. In March of 2001 after a circuitous route through some of the nation’s most prestigious newsrooms, Bill returned to his hometown to be editor of the newspaper that always remained close to his heart, in the only community that really mattered to him.
The creative fire that burned in Bill since he was old enough to hold a crayon eventually led him to positions on the cutting edge of “visual” news presentation. Bill took pride in his important role at many of the newspapers celebrated as leaders of modern newspaper design: the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Florida Today and the Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register.
Under Bill’s leadership, the Independent’s news department gleaned many top honors for news coverage in the Nebraska Press Association’s annual better newspaper contest and other competitions.
In 2007 Bill took over responsibility for the editorial page with the charge to make it more vibrant and relevant. As with every challenge he faced in his career, he devoted his full attention to achieving excellence.
At the time, the newspaper industry was focused on expanding community conversation through digital media. The expanded accessibility for opinion sharing, polling, and exchange of information in real time served to engage more people in public forums, with daily newspapers being the universally accepted, trusted conduit for such purposes. Trust, in fact, is the most important asset of any newspaper, and under Bill’s watch trust grew. Engagement grew, too.
When Bill became the guardian of the editorial page he wrote, “A daily newspaper is, in many ways, the pulse of the community. In Grand Island, it is not only the pulse, but also the nerve system and probably the liver.”
Bill was a master of the language and he could paint a clear, concise, thought-provoking picture with words. He sometimes laced his editorials with humor and a healthy dose of cynicism when needed to drive a point. To him, though, the editorial page was a canvas and his best work was rendered visually, with a pen and brush.
Bill’s imagination never rested. If he wasn’t creating, he was thinking about ideas that would make people think, understand, laugh and sometimes get steamed. Bill could rarely go out in public without being approached by his growing legion of fans. You would be hard pressed to find a more genial or accessible editor than Bill.
The Independent was truly blessed to have had a world-class editorial cartoonist, newspaper leader, and genuinely great human being on staff for these past 13 years.
His voice is quiet now, but his vast body of creative work lives on. On the opinion page today you have already noted a cartoon created by Bill’s kindred spirit, Omaha World-Herald editorial cartoonist Jeff Koterba. Bill would appreciate that his simple “visual” tribute says far more than all the words in this written opinion.
— Don Smith