Horace Greeley

RENO – History came alive and deceased journalist Horace Greeley was resurrected today on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno. He shared an important message.

“Every saloon keeper is a Democrat,” he said.

David Fenimore, director of the undergraduate studies in the UNR English department, talked to a group of teachers about Greeley, the historic journalist and newspaper publisher who started the New York Tribune.

Fenimore is a Chautauqua educator. The Chautauqua movement is an oral history presentation in which the presenter actually becomes a specific character and has extensive, not cursory, knowledge of the person he or she is representing.

Playing Greeley was something Fenimore said he was simply asked to do, but he said he has enjoyed it greatly because Greeley is such a great character.

“He was a wack-ball,” Fenimore said.

Fenimore presented to the American Society of News Editors Reynolds High School Journalism Institute group for nearly an hour over lunch, the majority of which time he was in character and interacting with the group via questions.

Stephanie Pixley, a teacher from Watertown, Conn., said she enjoyed the presentation.

David Fenimore

“I loved the dramatic part of it,” she said. “I gave up on trying to take notes on the historical information being delivered and found myself just focusing on his presentation. I bought into his passion. He made me believe as if he were Horace Greeley.”

Fenimore gave an extensive history of Greeley as he shared a lot of information within the confines of his hour-long presentation. He also dressed to fit the role wearing a three-piece suit with overcoat and top hat, a wig, a fake beard and silver glasses, and his voice and speech changed in a booming fashion while he was in character.

John Hull, a teacher from Elk Grove, Calif., said it was enlightening and impressive because Greeley proved to be courageous with his opinions.

“I just found out the guy was willing to speak his mind in an age when most newspaper editors and publishers were not really willing to call a spade a spade,” Hull said. “He was an interesting character.”

Hull said Greeley was interesting politically as well, considering Greeley had run for president of the United States.

“I found his politics curious in that he spoke out in support of what was at the time the Whig party and completely degrading one of the first Democratic candidates in Andrew Jackson,” he said. “Yet (Greeley) was running on that ticket.”

Fenimore mentioned he enjoyed taking part in Chautauqua performances, especially when he gets to play Greeley because of his interesting character.

EDITOR’S NOTE: To see other posts about my time with the American Society of News Editors Reynolds Institute, click here.

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