Here is an excerpt of a fine tribute to Dan Olmsted by Melissa Merli. Read the full article in the The News Gazette.
In the late 1970s, the post-Watergate era, daily newspapers ruled the media landscape. Their staffs were robust, with talented reporters hungry to make a mark.
The best and brightest among them at the Gannett-owned Commercial-News in Danville was Dan Olmsted, who had graduated from Yale University in 1975 and had come back to his hometown to work at the newspaper.
He had written for it while a student at Danville High School, where he had been news editor of the Maroon & White student newspaper.
Mr. Olmsted, who died Jan. 23 at his home in Falls Church, Va., won an Illinois Associated Press award for public-service reporting while in Danville and went on to receive national recognition for his work elsewhere.
"Dan was truly a prodigy, an artist and a door-kicking newsman," former Commercial-News reporter/columnist Kevin Cullen said. "I always thought of him as a class act and a model for the rest of our ink-stained little subculture."
In 2002, while working for UPI in Washington, D.C., Mr. Olmsted was inducted into the Danville High School Wall of Fame. Bill Black, a former Republican state legislator who had taught Mr. Olmsted in junior high, spoke at the ceremony.
"He was one of the standouts; he's somebody you remember all your life," Black said this week. "He was so smart but not the smart kid that would put everybody off.
"I've never seen anyone with that kind of ability when he was 13 or 14 years old. He was just a super-super kid."
Black recalled an assignment he gave his students about what they wanted to do as a career. Mr. Olmsted turned in a well-researched paper about a landfill in southern Vermilion County.
"He talked to people. He documented everything," Black said. "He did research on how it happened and what would happen. It was obvious the kid was going to be a brilliant journalist or research technician."
Yet Mr. Olmsted, who would later achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, was polite and courteous.
"He would disarm you to find out things," Black said. "He was never pushy, in your face. He would just do his work and would talk with anybody who could shed light on what he was writing about or was interested in."
Making a mark.
In 1978, Mr. Olmsted left his hometown to take a reporting position at Gannett's then-flagship newspaper, The Democrat & Chronicle, in Rochester, N.Y. Later, he helped Gannett start up USA Today and USA Weekend, where as senior editor he led an investigation of the murder of a Vietnamese immigrant in Florida. The story won a first-place award from the Asian-American Journalists Association.
After leaving Gannett, Mr. Olmsted began working in 1999 as the UPI bureau chief in Washington, D.C., where he supervised, among others, legendary White House correspondent Helen Thomas... Read the full article in the The News Gazette.