Charles J. Kershner, who with his wife Cynthia turned an historic, but bankrupt weekly newspaper into an award-winning product, died on April 14, 2013. He was 70-years-old and lived in Clinton.
Kershner bought the Clinton Courier in 1992 after a two decade career as a correspondent, editor, and senior news executive with Reuters, which is now Thomson-Reuters.
He also worked for United Press International in Montpelier, Vt., as bureau manager/state editor, and later for Dr. John G. Kemeny, the eminent mathematician who worked on the development of the first atomic bomb during World War II and later served as president of Dartmouth College in the 1970s.
Kershner was born in Lakewood, Ohio, on Dec. 26, 1942, to J.S. and Anne (Telinke) Kershner, but was raised in Toronto, Canada, where his father was stationed for a decade as Officer-in-Charge of the US Immigration & Naturalization Service in Canada. He returned to the US with his family in 1955.
He earned a bachelor of science degree in Journalism and English from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg in 1965, where he served as editor of the Student Printz, a nationally award-winning student newspaper.
While still in college, he covered civic rights activities, including the often violent, church-burning Freedom Summer voter registration drive in McComb in 1964. In 2007, Kershner was inducted into the School of Mass Communication & Journalism’s Hall of Fame for his life-time of professional achievements.
During his tenure as student editor, the March 20, 1964 issue of the paper was confiscated and burned by the administration because it carried a front page story and picture of the failed enrollment effort by John Frazier, a black student attending Tougaloo College in Jackson, Miss.
The confiscation, which involved police entering classrooms to take up copies of the paper from students while professors were lecturing, provoked an investigation by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).
The administration dismissed the findings and said the newspaper would never again be confiscated. Kershner, at the time, said it was a chilling assault on press freedom that galvanized his decision to become a journalist.
Following a five year stint with UPI, Kershner joined Dartmouth College, where he specialized in developing features for national placement for the college and its graduate schools of business, engineering, and medicine.
He also promoted the famous Dartmouth Time-Sharing System (DTSS), the first educational computer network used by a dozen colleges in the Northeast, all linked by telephone circuits to Hanover.
His computer experience was sought out by Reuters in New York and Kershner joined the international news service in 1973, where he helped install the first computer system for the editorial departments in New York and bureaus in Chicago, Washington, and Los Angeles.
As Reuters North American Production Manager, Kershner was also in charge of organizing coverage for international events, including meetings of the Economic Summit and International Monetary Fund/World Bank conference; US presidential conventions, campaigns and elections; and summer and winter Olympic games in Montreal, Lake Placid, and Los Angeles.
From 1980-84, he managed the design, manufacture, and installation in Hong Kong and the United States of the largest editorial computer system at the time, which was still in use at the time of his death. The system was eventually installed in London, based on his design and functionality.
As a child growing up in Toronto, he dreamed of someday owning a newspaper and the opportunity presented itself in 1992 when he and his wife acquired the Courier, first published in 1846, which is located in a bucolic Central New York community also home to Hamilton College.
Through the years, the paper was a consistent winner in a range of categories in the New York Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest. Kershner was recognized for his editorial and photographic work with a wall filled with first place plaques. He also won first place awards from the National Newspaper Association for his commentary.
In addition to a bachelor’s degree, Kershner received a certificate in Medieval Archaeology from Britain’s University of Oxford in 1984, and certificates in International Management from the International Management Institute in Lusanne, Switz., in 1989 and 1990.
He is survived by his wife of 42 years; a son, Charles James (C.J.), Montreal, Canada; two sisters and brothers-in-law, Penny and Alec Craig, Madeira Beach, Fla., and Jacqueline and Donald Payne, Marmora, Ont.; and a nephew and his wife, Walter and Dale Payne, Toronto, Canada.
Calling hours will be at Owens-Pavlot & Rogers Wednesday from 3-7 P.M. His funeral service is on Thursday at 10:30 A.M. in St. James’ Episcopal Church, Clinton.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to the Clinton Fire Dept. or the Kirkland Town Library.