Edgerton’s Diane Everson to be inducted into state newspaper Hall of Fame
When Diane Everson talks about being named to the Wisconsin Newspaper Hall of Fame, her hands shake and her face gets flushed.
She’s uncomfortable taking credit for her years at the helm of the Edgerton Reporter, the state’s oldest independently owned weekly newspaper.
Everson said the credit should go to her parents, Harlan and Helen Everson, who bought the newspaper in 1951.
“It’s more an honor to my family, not so much me. I’m just excited to help them get recognition for all they’ve accomplished,” Everson told The Gazette in an interview.
Helen Everson, 93, still works at the paper part time. Harlan Everson, who was a farmer and state Representative in addition to operating the newspaper, died in 1992.
Everson is one of just 40 Wisconsin journalists named to the state newspaper Hall of Fame, which is awarded by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, the state’s leading newspaper trade association. She will be inducted at the association’s annual banquet in Middleton on March 1.
Everson started in advertising at the Reporter in 1977, initially filling in to help out at the paper while her father underwent heart surgery.
She never quit.
“I found out that I loved creating. I learned that I loved providing people with information. I got hooked,” Everson said.
In 36 years, many at the helm of the Reporter as the paper’s publisher, Everson hasn’t just watched Edgerton evolve and transform. She’s had her hands on the wheels of change.
When recessions at the start and end of the 1980s hammered industries and Main Street commerce in Edgerton, Everson did what she could to ensure that her parents’ now-139-year-old weekly newspaper survived.
She once allowed one of the paper’s struggling advertising clients to pay her with camera equipment.
While Everson’s father pushed state legislation to transform Lake Koshkonong from a polluted reservoir into a vital fishery and vacation hotspot, she chronicled the changes in a special lakes advertising publication printed by the Reporter.
Everson has led reporters who’ve exposed financial mismanagement at Edgerton City Hall.
She takes a bulldog approach to open government.
The paper’s scrappy news coverage and Everson’s at times bold and forceful editorials have gotten her snubbed on the streets by locals.
Everson said she’s always fought to chase news hard. She never wanted to run a feelgood, lapdog newspaper.
“We took on some dicey situations, and it was hard sometimes, yes,” Everson said. “But whether or not you’re popular is not the thing that matters. The most important thing a local newspaper can do is to get people to think. To react.”
Everson, a Carroll College graduate with a degree in social work, believes that a smalltown newspaper’s job sometimes is to advocate for local people and local causes.
In recent years, Everson has championed the arts and literacy as the paper’s publisher and editorial voice by spearheading the annual Sterling North Book and Film Festival and advocating for renovations and an addition at the Edgerton Public Library.
Last year, Everson led the charge in a search for two missing Edgerton youths, turning her small news office into a impromptu regional press headquarters and incident command. While Everson doesn’t hesitate to take on the powers that be, she is unafraid to be known as a civic booster.
“We may physically own the paper, but it really belongs to the public. It’s their paper. That’s the key,” she said.
Thomas Dickinson, an Edgerton native and an official at the United States Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., is a lifelong friend of Everson.
In a letter to the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, Dickinson wrote that Everson “has boldly carried on exemplary traditions established by her parents: unswerving loyalty to the principals of truth, factuality, objectivity and fairness in everything that appears in print in the Reporter.”
Everson’s personal vision is more understated. She simply believes that a strong city needs a strong newspaper, and a strong newspaper must have a strong voice.
She believes that will never change.
“There’s always going to be a role for the village storyteller,” Everson said.