Legends of North Texas: Scott McCartney, Karen Blumenthal
John Lumpkin – “It was a night to celebrate journalism – which seems ever more important these days.” So began an email from Scott McCartney, former AP national reporter and retired Wall Street Journal correspondent and columnist, about the induction of him and his late wife Karen Blumenthal into the Legends of North Texas Journalism by the Press Club of Dallas.
Scott was offering a fill-in because I had tested positive for COVID on day of the Oct. 13 ceremony and could not attend. In all, 11 journalists with Dallas-Fort Worth backgrounds were honored in the Class of 2022.
As a former inductee, I served on the selection committee. I batted four-for-four on my nominations – Karen, Scott and two CBS “legends” in their own right, Verne Lundquist and Bob Schieffer. Karen passed away in 2020 – she was an amazing combination of journalist, author of a dozen non-fiction books, journalism educator and civic force in advocacy of Dallas public libraries.
“Every honoree had great stories of reporting adventures and memorable moments with Texas legends,” Scott said. “And everyone expressed appreciation for the Press Club’s efforts to promote journalism excellence.”
In his acceptance speech. Scott said, “I had a 40-year career in Dallas and, except for a brief internship at The Dallas Morning News, I only worked for New York organizations. That has to be some kind of rarity.”
About that experience, “I thought Texas was a reporter’s theme park – an endless number of stories, and endless fascination with the rest of the world with what was going on in Texas.” Scott also used Dallas as a base to cover hurricanes, wildfires, oil spills, riots, presidential campaigns and conventions elsewhere.
Scott McCartney (left) and Dallas sportscaster Verne Lundquist, who were among 11 honored at the event. Lundquist, nationally known through his broadcast work at CBS (as well as ABC and TNT), was a longtime friend of former Texas AP sports editor Denne Freeman. When Scott introduced himself to Verne and mentioned Denne, Verne exclaimed, yes, “The Wire God.”
About Karen, Scott said, “From the time she gave me my first assignment at the college newspaper in 1978, we did everything together. We edited each other’s stories when we could. We edited each other’s books. We managed the Wall Street Journal Dallas bureau together.
“So, to receive this honor together is a fitting, emotional exclamation mark on our careers.”
Connecting readers might appreciate one anecdote from Scott’s remarks, recalling “pressure to leave Dallas and go to the mothership in New York.” It seems the AP managing editor and the ME of the Journal at the time had a lunch to “conspire to move Karen and me to New York.
“We refused. For better or worse, we loved Dallas.”
My memories of Scott and Karen are myriad. He and Kristin Gazlay teamed as news editor and assistant bureau chief in Dallas after I moved there in 1982 – a young, incredibly talented duo. For that reason, the “team” didn’t last that long. He became among the first of AP’s regional writers and she headed to Arkansas as Little Rock AP bureau chief.
I’m not sure Karen forgave me for inviting Scott to a “business meeting” one day at a public golf course because he lost their wedding ring – my guess, when he tried to take it off beforehand and missed the pouch in his golf bag. Perhaps one of the few rookie mistakes he ever made.
Even so, Karen didn’t mention that decades later when she accepted the offer to help establish a business journalism sequence at the Schieffer School of Journalism, where I went as director after retiring from AP. She took the lead on a foundation course in capstone reporting – a mesmerizing experience that the editor of our partners at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram said was one of the most meaningful developments in his career.
Fast forward to the Press Club of Dallas Legends’ event and other AP connections:
Verne Lundquist – NCAA Final Four basketball and Masters golf institution – was a Dallas sports news anchor in the early days of Dallas Cowboys’ rise. Along the sidelines was another institution, Texas AP sports editor Denne Freeman. Scott emailed that he and Verne got together at the October 13 event, with Verne’s memory of Denne as “The Wire God.”
Bob Schieffer – who often attributed his early success to the AP bureau in Saigon embracing him when he showed up in a war zone as a reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and had no compass on where to proceed. Schieffer’s acceptance was via video, which Scott reported was “as always, just priceless…the crowd loved it. His humor and his humility really showed through.”
I received another report of the Legends inductions from Betty Osborne, who attended in memory of another deceased Press Club legend, husband Burl, publisher of The Dallas Morning News, chair of Associated Press and AP correspondent, bureau chief and managing editor.
“I was very moved by Scott’s acceptance speech on behalf of himself and Karen…Bob Schieffer’s remarks warmed my heart.”
She said she believed Schieffer was trying to embrace the same message in the newly published biography of Osborne – Burl: Journalism Giant and Medical Trailbrazer – “we need good journalism and good journalism can still be done.”
It turns out that Schieffer and Burl were born in the same year, Betty noted. “They sure made ‘em good in 1937.”