“Southwest” is rarely seen in the name of the Fort Smith newspaper these days, but it meant something to longtime editor Jack Moseley, who died Nov. 15 at 82.
The paper is still the Southwest Times Record, but it scrubbed geography from its brand some years ago. But Moseley, a Texas native and a University of Texas Longhorn, bonded with the heritage of the Arkansas town on the Oklahoma line. He liked its ranches and cowboys, factories and warehouses, the businesses on Garrison Avenue.
During 26 years as editor, he reveled in the town’s legacy: U.S. marshals, Hanging Judge Isaac Parker, the fictional Rooster Cogburn of “True Grit.” Moseley even helped jump-start a festival in the city of 90,000, Old Fort Days.
“Southwest” was at the forefront of the region’s identity when Moseley moseyed in back in 1975, carrying a reputation as an award-winning Dallas-area reporter who was one of the last to have interviewed President John F. Kennedy.
Moseley was a storyteller, and I heard a dandy at a New Year’s party a quarter-century ago. It involved a bad arm, the result of a childhood accident, and how it misfired in Army grenade-toss training. He nearly killed himself and others, but the laughter rolled.
He was recalled for shooting the breeze in the newsroom with anybody, and pushing fair, accurate coverage, including aggressive investigative pieces and tough questions for local leaders. His staff piled up journalism awards, and employees said he tempered a traditional editor’s demanding gruffness with coaching and praise for jobs well done. “He would push and give you ideas, but he didn’t filter it,” said Nancy Pryor, who wrote and edited for Moseley before starting a law career in Fort Smith.
Ed Sealover, who worked for Moseley fresh out of Northwestern University, is now a reporter at the Denver Business Journal. He recalled that Moseley took great pride in being a journalist.
“He imbued me with a sense of the importance of what I was doing,” Sealover told Arkansas Business. “He inspired me to work hard and go after stories that I might have been squeamish to pursue.”
Moseley liked to get good news about local businesses into the paper, but he was far from a pushover. Emon Mahony Jr., former chairman of Arkansas Oklahoma Gas Corp., told Talk Business & Politics that Moseley was “one of my favorite people of all time.” Mahony, who relished mixing it up with Moseley, admired the newsman’s devotion to the truth.
Sealover agreed. “Jack gave me and other reporters a confidence to know that when we were covering topics that made local leaders uncomfortable, he would always back us as long as we got our facts right.” Moseley pressed for stories like Sealover’s examination of a state legislative candidate’s child-support payments, or “specifically a lack thereof,” as Sealover put it. “By the time I left Fort Smith, I was a more confident reporter, and definitely better. He will be missed.”