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Tom Eblen, former longtime Star editor and newspaper man, dies at 80

Tom Eblen, former longtime Kansas City Star editor and University of Kansas journalism educator, has died at age 80.
Tom Eblen, former longtime Kansas City Star editor and University of Kansas journalism educator, has died at age 80.

Tom Eblen, former longtime Kansas City Star editor and University of Kansas journalism educator, died Saturday at age 80.

He had been ill for some time, family members said.

During a career that spanned more than 50 years, Eblen worked at The Star as a reporter, copy editor, city editor, and managing editor before moving on to serve as the general manager at the Fort Scott Tribune. He then spent more than 15 years as the general manager and news adviser for KU’s student newspaper, The University Daily Kansan.

Born in St. Joseph in 1936, Eblen graduated from the University of Missouri and worked at the Columbia Missourian and the Amarillo Daily News in Texas before arriving at The Star, where he rose to the position of managing editor in the 1970s.

Former Star reporters remember him fondly.

“He was what you would call the quintessential journalist,” said former city desk reporter Betsey Solberg. “He believed that newspapers — good newspapers and good reporters — could make a community better.

“He was smart. He was tough. Accurate. Passionate, passionate about newspapers serving their community and making it stronger.”

After leaving daily newspapers for his role at the University Daily Kansan in 1986, Eblen established a tradition: He read each edition of the newspaper front to back, using a red, felt-tip pen to note its strengths and weaknesses, and posted the critique in the newsroom. He never missed a day.

Eblen’s successor, Malcolm Gibson, did the same for years.

After retiring from KU, Eblen served as a part-time news consultant for the Kansas Press Association. He conducted training seminars for newspapers across the state and served as KPA president in 1987-1988.

Eblen was a winner of the Clyde M. Reed Jr. Master Editor Award and was president of the William Allen White Community Partnership and board chair of the William Allen White Foundation.

Eblen is survived by his wife, Jean Kygar Eblen, and two children, Courtney McCain of Overland Park and Matt Eblen of Roeland Park.

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