Special to the Grove Sun
August 11, 2010
(Pete Crow owned The Grove Sun Company from 1969 to 2007. Gerald Stone, who died August 8, was publisher of The Grove Sun Company publications from 1989 to 2001).
Marvin Gerald Stone was a newspaper’s newspaperman. He loved everything about newspapers and he immersed himself in everything from his columns, to advertising, printing and layout. Gerald is the kind of newspaper guy that will not be seen again, and we’ll all be the poorer for it.
Gerald and I got to know one another when a newspaper in Siloam Springs started newspapers against him in Tahlequah and against me in Grove in the early 1980s.
He strolled into my office one morning and asked if I’d like to run the Siloam newspaper out of business. At the time he was publishing the Tahlequah Daily Press, which was part of the Enterprise Newspaper Group. He’d been a huge success at their Slidell, LA, newspaper and had been sent to Tahlequah both because he’d worn out his welcome in Slidell, and to inject new life into the Tahlequah newspaper. Gerald sure knew exactly how to do that.
Gerald’s company and I started a newspaper in Siloam Springs with Gerald as the point person and in a few months the Siloam newspaper was completely out of business everywhere. After that we stayed in touch.
The newspaper Gerald really wanted to publish was The Grove Sun. Enterprise tried to buy it from me in 1986, and very nearly did. In the following years Gerald regularly approached asking that I hire him and in September 1989, he became the third person to run my newspapers (by then I owned several newspapers in different locations). A popular misconception, which Gerald encouraged, was that he owned part of The Grove Sun, although he never did.
Under Gerald The Sun would triple in size, and balloon in pages. The newspaper would go from twice a week to daily on March 30, 1999. He was a great ad salesman, and his columns made readers passionate both for and against Gerald. The Sun’s circulation reflected an avid readership.
Gerald was never a great manager, and he certainly wasn’t a cost control guy. But he was a rainmaker and brought in tons of business. It fell to others to insure that the Company made a profit, which is common. Rainmakers are rarely bean counters, and you do not want them to be.
Gerald loved controversy. I sometimes accused him of not believing what he put in his columns; we both knew the idea was to stimulate readers to think and react. Gerald was an educated guy with a degree in journalism and a lot smarter and cagier than many realized. He understood that democracy only works when we have an informed, thinking and involved public. His columns, which delighted some and made others slobber in rage like mad dogs, are an essential part of the push-and-shove of democracy.
In Grove and the other communities, Gerald was involved in everything. He served on the GRDA advisory boards, was intimately involved in the Chamber of Commerce and all aspects of the community. He campaigned to build better schools. He used The Sun as a bloody pulpit to better Grove and the Grand Lake area, and succeeded. He ate, slept and breathed The Sun 24/7.
He was a man of passionate likes and dislikes as great news guys always are.
One of the people he hated was a liberal congressman, now deceased, who represented the Second District. Gerald was merciless.
One day the Congressman called angry at something Gerald had written. He started in on me by demanding, “Chain your dog” and then we went at it. I took umbrage that he called Gerald a dog and he threatened to do this thing and that. I did not bother to tell him that I placed no restrictions on Gerald or anyone else who published The Sun during my 38 years of ownership. I certainly would argue, counsel and encourage, but counseling and encouraging Gerald had little effect and he thrived on arguing. Usually Gerald would thunder on ignoring me. We had an unspoken deal.
In the end Gerald wrote one too many inflammatory columns and a libel suit ensued. The Grove Sun Company’s insurance carriers were becoming uncomfortable with the Gerald Stones of the newspaper world and forced settlement of a case we could have easily won. They declared his brand of column writing uninsurable.
I always thought it was to Gerald’s credit that he remained true to himself and refused to tone down who and what he was in his columns. Eventually in 2001 far too fettered for his own comfort, he left The Sun; we would only speak a few more times before he died on Sunday.
M. Gerald Stone was a great publisher. He was a seer. He could smell a great story from miles away and he knew how to go get it. God knows, we fought. But M. Gerald and I also laughed together and were kindred cynics for more than 20 years. I loved this guy.
I really mourn his passing.