RN&R editor voted into Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame

Frank X. Mullen left retirement to keep the paper alive online

PHOTO/NEVADA PRESS ASSOCIATION: The Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame honors journalists who have made their mark in the Silver State from the days of the Comstock Lode to the present.

Frank X. Mullen contains multitudes. Known primarily as an investigative reporter, he also is an author, historian, actor and university journalism instructor.

Mullen, editor of the Reno News & Review, is among five journalists who have had a lasting impact in Nevada and will be inducted into the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame this month, the Nevada Press Association and Nevada Press Foundation announced. The others are the late Lucius Beebe, who revived the Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City in 1960; Ray Hagar and Lenita Powers, former reporters at the Reno Gazette-Journal; and Barry Smith, former editor of the Nevada Appeal.

Last year, the late Dennis Myers, former RN&R news editor, was inducted into the Hall. This year’s inductees will be honored at a lunch ceremony to be held at the organizations’ Annual Convention and Awards Banquet in Reno on Saturday, Sept. 18.

Mullen, who took a buyout at the Reno Gazette-Journal in 2013 after 25 years serving as an editor and reporter, came out of retirement last year to revive the website of the Reno News & Review, an alternative weekly that was shuttered when the pandemic began.

PHOTO/GRACE M. POTORTI: Mullen, on right, covering a rally at Reno City Plaza June 12, which was held to bolster opposition against a planned open-pit lithium mine in Humboldt County.

Born in Queens and raised in New Jersey, Mullen came west to earn a journalism degree from Metropolitan State University of Denver. In 1979, he helped co-found The Metropolitan, the school’s student newspaper that’s still publishing today. He later earned a master’s degree in environmental journalism/new media from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Mullen cut his teeth as an editor and reporter for the Columbia Daily Tribune, the Rocky Mountain Business Journal and the Denver Post before coming to Nevada in 1988 to work for the Reno Gazette Journal. He spent most of his 25 years at the paper pursuing deeply-reported investigative projects.

Author, teacher and performer

His interest in Nevada history drew him to the Donner Party, which led to a newspaper series about the ill-fated pioneers that later became a book. “The Donner Party Chronicles: A Day-by-Day Account of a Doomed Wagon Train, 1846-1847,” went through four printings and is still used in history classes in Nevada and California.

He broke stories about dangerous Nevada doctors, malfeasance in state agencies, the abuse of research animals, and toxic clouds generated by burning military munitions in California. His ongoing stories about the Fallon cancer cluster, in which 16 children contracted leukemia over a six-year period, was nominated for a Pulitzer by the Gazette Journal, as was his coverage of animal abuse and neglect. 

Mullen taught journalism at the Reynolds School for more than a dozen years beginning in 2000, and continues to lecture on storytelling and Western history at Truckee Meadows Community College.

Mullen’s talent for narration and acting made him a natural for the Humanities Chautauqua living-history presentations where, since 1998, he has performed in several states as characters as diverse as Babe Ruth, Benedict Arnold, Edward R. Murrow and Comstock-era newspaperman Dan DeQuille, who (along with his contemporary, Mark Twain), also is a Hall of Fame inductee.

Mullen has appeared on the History Channel, Discovery, PBS, BBC and other cable networks. He was Nevada Press Association’s Outstanding Journalist in 2002 and 2005.

NOTE: This story, written by Nora Carrick, assistant to The executive director at Nevada Press Association, originally appeared as Mullen's bio on the Nevada Press Association's website on Sept. 1. The RN&R added information about the other inductees and the Hall of Fame to the piece.

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