By Reggie Connell/Managing Editor of The Apopka Voice
Apopka lost an icon this week, and the world of local journalism lost one of its trailblazers.
W.R. Mac McGuffin, former owner of The Apopka Planter, and The Apopka Chief died last Tuesday at the age of 96. He lived a full life and made a hearty and lasting contribution to both his community and his country in many ways.
I never met Mr. McGuffin, but being a writer and reporter in Apopka, I’ve heard enough stories and read enough accounts to know the impact he had. The descriptions of him to me by his friends, family, and residents of Apopka are bursting with accolades, their praise for him limitless.
Mr. McGuffin joined the United States Air Force in the early 1940s and fought in World War II. He remained in the military after the war until he retired in 1964 as a master sergeant and intelligence officer.
It was after his military career concluded that he and his family moved to Apopka and became involved in the local newspaper business.
Mr. McGuffin started The Apopka Planter and later bought The Apopka Chief in both a volatile and golden age of journalism. His publications reported the news of this community at a time when the country struggled with civil rights, segregation, the cold war, Vietnam, and Watergate. By all accounts, he and his staff did this with integrity, objectivity, and shepherded his readers through one of the most tumultuous times in American history and did it with an eye on how it all affected Apopka – exactly what a community publication should strive to do.
Jerrell H. Shofner, the author of “History of Apopka and NW Orange County” wrote these words about McGuffin:
“In 1966, W.R. Mac McGuffin, an experienced journalist, began publishing and distributing The Apopka Planter. Successful in that venture, he subsequently purchased The Apopka Chief and built it into an excellent community weekly while continuing to publish the Planter. With a staff of a dozen full-time employees and several correspondents, The Chief has been recognized as the best newspaper in its circulation category in the state.”
Shoffner, an iconic figure in local history himself but not one to throw around compliments or even adjectives loosely, clearly held Mr. McGuffin in high regard. He saw him as the consummate newsman of the community.
Residents trust community newspapers and online news sites to do their very best to find the truth and to tell it to them. News travels fast in a small town or even a fast-growing city like Apopka, and bad news travels even faster, but all too often that news is not news at all. All too often, that news is little more than a rumor, sometimes made up of, at best, a grain of truth exaggerated in its retellings, repostings, and social media threads vastly, and often alarmingly, out of proportion.
Readers expect their community newspaper and online news sites to separate that sort of rumor and fiction from what is true and newsworthy and to publish that which is the truth and then to go the extra step of proving its assertions with facts.
Mr. McGuffin not only believed in those ideals but embodied the spirit of them and invested in that premise, and Apopka is definitely a better place because of it. He lived a life of honor, service, and bravery to his country, and then of objectivity, fairness, and integrity when his responsibility was to tell the story of Apopka. His readers trusted him, and his memory will never be forgotten.
My thoughts and prayers are with the McGuffin family this week and my sincere thanks to W.R. Mac McGuffin for blazing a trail in local journalism that all of us can follow.
According to the Loomis Family Funeral Home website, visitation is Saturday, June 22nd, from 10-11 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church of Apopka, 201 South Park Avenue. The funeral service will follow at 11 a.m. Loomis Family Funeral Homes is handling the arrangements, and a reception will follow at Loomis, 420 W. Main St., Apopka.