“Community journalism is my whole life.” His quote probably best summarizes the devoted service Les Hawkes gave to his industry. He was an expert on the ins and outs of weekly newspapers (as they were called in the old days) and served as professor of journalism at the University of Wisconsin for 30 years. Many aspiring graduates were tutored by him as they entered the field of community journalism.
He started a statewide internship program for students to work on newspapers in the summer. Hands on, it was the best of learning. He also started a course in which students evaluated weekly publications from all angles for five months.
Described as gentle but firm, Les loved his students, inspiring them about community journalism, helping them find good jobs and then watching them “climb life’s ladder.”
Les began his career in the back shop of his father’s newspaper in Illinois and published a book “Your Front Page” in 1949. Until his death, he was in close contact with daily, as well as community, newspapers. His enthusiasm for journalism inspired son Dennis to become publisher and editor of the Lake Mills Leader and Cambridge News.