Steve Buttry helped make me the journalist I became and was an influence, at least in part, on the creation of Henderson County Now.
He died Sunday, Feb. 19, of pancreatic cancer at the age of 62. The world of journalism is a poorer place today.
I only met Steve once face-to-face. It was at a long-ago journalism conference where he conducted a workshop on breaking the inverted pyramid, the reporter’s well-worn and boring story form. I remember talking to him afterward and him digging in his bag to give me a homemade CD with an assortment of his articles.
I held on to that CD for more than 10 years, accessing it frequently.
Steve called for innovation and a return to storytelling. Unfortunately, I turned out to be a terrible storyteller. The idea for innovation stuck, however, and as an editor, I was able to use Steve’s ideas and techniques to mold my newsrooms.
For a time I even did some reporter training for CNHI, the company that owns the Athens Daily Review. I based the training on Steve’s ideas.
Steve was an advocate for a digital first approach to journalism and worked on the American Press Institute’s Newspaper Next project. He wrote about his thoughts often on his blog, “The Buttry Diary.”
Posts from that blog influenced the digital media approach I developed while at The Malakoff News in 2010-2012 and in time saw come to fruition at Henderson County Now.
I wish I could tell Steve what a big impact he’s been in my career. I wish I could thank him for letting me know it was OK to go in a different direction. But Steve is gone now and there is only one I can think to do even though he might say it was obvious and cliche …
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