Former Reno News & Review news editor and reporter Dennis Myers, who died last year at age 70, has been inducted into the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame.
The Nevada Press Association announced Sept. 24 that Myers and four other Silver State journalists — Nellie Mighels Davis, Don Digilio, Cory Farley and Thomas Mitchell – will now join the distinguished ranks of previous Hall of Famers including Mark Twain, Dan DeQuille, Hank Greenspun, “Higgy” Higginbotham and Jean Sybil McElrath.
Current News & Review editor Frank X. Mullen remembered Myers as an “old school” reporter:
“Dennis should have worn a battered fedora with a press pass peeking from the hatband. The motto ‘if your mother says she loves you, check it out!’ would not have been out of place on his business cards.
Myers worked in both print and TV media
“He was a shoe-leather reporter, an ink-stained workhorse who launched his career while a student at Reno High School. He was still chasing tips, taking names, and telling truth to power when he died of a stroke last year.
He bounced from newspapers to television news and back again in the course of five decades, taking time off from the profession in 1987-88 when Nevada Secretary of State Frankie Sue Del Papa appointed him as her chief deputy. He was a senior writer and news editor at the RN&R for 15 years.
Dennis and I always worked for competing Reno media outlets, but if I needed a source or wanted to tap his encyclopedic knowledge of Nevada history and politics, he was always willing to help. He never gave a damn about who got what scoops or who won which awards. He was all about the stories, the community and the impact the truth could have on the public good.
Many journalists, myself included, have egos the size of Mt. Rose. It comes with the territory. Day after day, we tell people what we think they ought to know. We expect strangers to trust us, and we sign all our work. We dig out facts and don’t suffer fools. We have been known to growl at critics and address them in words we did not learn from our mothers. After awhile, we get to thinking we’re pretty good at this journalism thing.
Dennis lacked that arrogance. Years ago, I mentioned I used some of his work in my classes at the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. He asked if I employed his stories as “cautionary tales,” so the students would know what NOT to do.
I stared at him. He did not seem to be joking. No, I told him, your clippings are used as examples of ‘solid reporting and clear explanatory journalism … ya putz!’
I don’t think he realized how respected he was, both by his peers and his audience. If you want to know what Dennis was up to at any time over the last 50 years, the sum of his professional life is on microfilm, tape and a matter of public record. His work speaks for itself.”
Myers wrote more than 3,000 stories and columns for the Reno News & Review alone.
A reporter who got close to his stories
When Myers died, Bob Fulkerson, former executive director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, remembered his dedication to reporting about underserved communities and giving voice to those who are often unheard:
“Dennis valued protest and agitation as a vital aspect of political expression. He rode the bus with protestors to Carson City to get a deeper understanding of our issues and motivation. He was the only reporter to cover our action at a fundraiser for Jim ‘you want slaves you got ’em’ Wheeler after the Eric Garner killing.
His TV news stories on Dr. Susan Chandler’s research on casino women and the fight for living wages in Nevada in the late ’90s should have gotten an Emmy. In 2017, I had the honor of introducing him at the 29th annual Human Services Award brunch when he received the Media Representative of the Year award. Here is the introduction to those remarks:
“The name of Harry Truman’s biographical play and film is ‘Give ‘Em Hell Harry!’ It’s from a line when President Truman was asked why he gave Republicans so much hell. He replied ‘I just gave him the truth, and they thought it was hell.’ That is Dennis Myers, speaking truth to power in Nevada for decades, and many thinking he was giving ’em hell.”— Bob Fulkerson, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.
Friends and colleagues recall newsman’s integrity
As a newsman he was exceptional, as a human being, he was memorable, wrote former RN&R editor D. Brian Burghart, who explained the difficulty of being thought of as Dennis’ boss:
“Dennis was a genuinely nice guy. He melted around children and small animals. He never forgot a kindness. He liked horrible showtunes. He remembered birthdays. He wrote ‘thank you’ notes. I think everyone who knew him in more than passing ways are going to have stories about how he’d get down on the floor with their puppy or tickle their toddler’s toes. A lot of friends will tell stories about his naive heart, and a lot of colleagues will talk about his speaking of truth to power.
But what about when, by virtue of your title, you were “the power”? What about when, by virtue of your title, you were his “superior”? Dennis Myers had no superiors in the newsroom, factually or metaphorically. And if you were “the power” because you were a rung higher on the corporate ladder, he spoke truth to you.
His integrity was his boss. I don’t mean to sound too rhapsodic, because his integrity wasn’t something he ever spoke about. He’d never pound his finger on the AP stylebook or shake the SPJ Code of Ethics at you. His integrity was like gravity: It couldn’t be seen, but its effects were incontrovertible.”
There are many other stories about, and tributes to, Myers, written at the time of his passing. Here’s a column by News and Review publisher Jeff vonKaenel and an obituary by Bob Conrad in This Is Reno.
Now Myers will be remembered alongside other ink-stained, Silver State luminaries. He’s in good company; he’s where he deserves to be.