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The Father of Local Journalism Dies

Dwight Bentel founded the School of Journalism at this editor's alma mater, in 1936, and died May 16. He was 103.

As the Spartan Daily broke the news Wednesday of Dwight Bentel's death at 103, news spread quickly throughout the journalism community.

According to the article, Bentel helped create the Spartan Daily in 1934 and founded the journalism program at San Jose State Univerisity in 1936. Dwight Bental Hall, the home of what we call the J-school, was named after him in 1982.

He also worked on the committee that helped write the Brown Act that governs public officials' transaction of public business in meetings.

Before his death this week, I got a text message from a colleague to tell me that Dwight had suffered a stroke and was in a coma. My heart sank. That was May 9.

On May 16, my husband texted me that the man who fathered the journalism program at my alma mater, had died. Things still haven't sunken in for me.

Just three years ago, I and another SJSU alumna, award-winning photo journalist Jacqueline Ramseyer, attended Bentel's 100th birthday celebration at SJSU, where the photo above was taken.

It was amazing to see so many professional and budding journalists alike from all over, coming together for this event.

Jacqueline and I were both surprised at how much life emanated from Bentel. He was all smiles, hugging and shaking people's hands. I don't think he said no to anyone who wanted to capture themselves on film with the man behind Dwight Bentel Hall, the building on campus that so many of us practically lived at during our time as students.

When we headed over for our turn in front of the camera, Dwight pulled us over, and even grabbed my hand and placed it on his leg, a big smile on his face as he turned to look over at his older brother.

I didn't know Bentel personally, nor did I ever take a class with him, but I have been a journalist for more than 10 years in the South Bay and have come across so many people that have stories to tell about him, about his classes and how his school of journalism helped them become the people they are today.

For me, it is the constant reminder of the role that journalism plays in the public's lives that has stuck from my days at Dwight's J-school: The responsibility that we, as journlists, have to our readers.

We do the reading, the research and ask the questions. We shed light on the things that are happening in our community centers, our schools and our city governments and we make sure that those who are making an impact on our communities are highlighted. We help spread schools', people's, organizations' and companies' messages.

At least this is what I got out of my time at SJSU and what I try to bring to the table every day.

All the students that went through Dwight Bentel Hall's doors, including myself, will always be grateful to have had such a solid foundation laid out for us.

Gracias y adios, Dwight.

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