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Lessons learned at Keesler springboard career

Bill Lincicome, a retired master sergeant, takes the lessons he learned working on the Keesler News to the Defense Information School, Fort Meade, Md., where he instructs the next generation of military photojournalists. (Courtesy photo)

Bill Lincicome, a retired master sergeant, takes the lessons he learned working on the Keesler News to the Defense Information School, Fort Meade, Md., where he instructs the next generation of military photojournalists. (Courtesy photo)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Bill Lincicome took the valuable skills he learned as a writer for the Keesler News to other public affairs assignments and to his current job as a journalism instructor at the Defense Information School, Fort Meade, Md. In 11 years at DINFOS, the retired master sergeant has turned his KN experiences into classroom lessons that have helped hundreds of military journalists learn their craft.

Even though Lincicome was a newspaper editor at his assignment at Homestead Air Force Base, Fla., he admits that he knew next to nothing about being an editor. Fortunately, as a junior noncommissioned officer, Lincicome was one of dozens of military and civilian journalists who were mentored by Perry Jenifer, who served as the base's newspaper editor for 23 years.

"Perry taught me very simple, easy and effective newspaper design - I've carried just about everything I learned as a staff writer/photographer and occasional editor of KN since I last left there in 1997," Lincicome remarked. "I've incorporated the clean simplicity of its design, tight newswriting, the concept of 'everyman feature stories' and consistent newspaper design elements into other base newspapers and deployed publications."

As far as writing goes, Lincicome said his favorite lesson from his KN days is, "Everyone has a story. Tell it."

Nearly two decades later, Lincicome still has stacks of Jenifer's legendary "Dis N Dats" at home. The weekly product included writing assignments, story points of contacts, a calendar of upcoming events, off-beat humor and occasional mild profanity.

"Everyone knew what their role was, as well as what everyone else was doing for every edition," Lincicome pointed out. "We had a lot to do, because as Perry would say, 'Busy Airmen are happy Airmen.' He was right."

According to Lincicome, Jenifer's editing skills turned many good stories into exceptional ones - and then he gave the staff writer full credit.

"Those lessons built confidence, which led to a bushel of command-level, Air Force and Defense Department awards every year," he explained. "I believe it was an unreproducible formula that brought us so much success - Perry's astute grasp of writing and his inexhaustible energy that was doubtlessly fueled by that coffee mug that had years of accumulating coffee residue."

The production process wasn't complete until Jenifer circulated a marked-up copy of that week's KN to the staff - what went well, what didn't and other feedback.

"At first that criticism could sting a bit, but only until we realized that it was never personal," Lincicome observed. "The constructive criticism made us better communicators."

On a deeply personal note, he said his time at KN also gave me a sense of normalcy that he desperately needed during some very difficult times in his life.

"My first tenure with KN began when I was assigned to Keesler after Hurricane Andrew wrecked Homestead in August 1992," Lincicome recalled. "The second was following the death of my wife, who remained in Mississippi when I changed duty stations to Korea in the spring of 1995. In both circumstances, especially after my wife's passing, I needed something familiar and productive to work on while I tried to come to grips with these life events.

"There are so many stories from our time at KN - my heart breaks a little each time I think of this newspaper passing into history," he added. "I'm sad, but truly grateful for my experience as a KN staff writer. I can't think of a single day when I didn't look forward to coming to work. I truly loved what I did each day."