“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius
Duane Dailey, professor emeritus and senior writer for the University of Missouri Extension, has taken this idea to heart.
“I flunked retirement three times. I don’t plan to retire again,” Dailey said.
Journalism is what Dailey says keeps him young.
“I think Duane will write until he can’t write anymore,” said Abner Womack, professor emeritus of agricultural economics and co-founder of the MU Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute. “It’s a search for knowledge and the distribution of that knowledge.”
Dailey has worked with Womack for 28 years as FAPRI’s main reporter and press release writer. Womack and his institute run analyses on farm policy for Congress. FAPRI relies heavily on Dailey’s clear, concise style of writing.
“It’s his ability to communicate our research and grab the lead so when we take something into Washington in 50 pages, he can condense that into a paragraph,” Womack said.
FAPRI receives more than 40 analysis requests from Washington a year, which results in three or more press releases for Dailey per month. Although Womack said it is not unusual for him to write one a day.
In the world of policy, Womack stressed how vital it is to clearly present what you want to convey, otherwise someone else will interpret it for you, and often times it won’t be what you had in mind. This is where Dailey’s work comes in. Not only does Dailey clearly communicate through his press releases, but he finds the stories that no one else would have envisioned.
“He doesn’t sit in his office waiting for a story to come to him,” Womack said “He has a beat. He shakes the trees, gathers the leaves and makes beautiful stories out of them.”
This kind of tree-shaking attitude led Dailey to form a professional relationship with Scott Brown, MU research assistant professor of agricultural and applied economics. Dailey would come to Brown’s office in search of story ideas and often travel with Brown to meetings, which largely concerned the cattle industry.
Prior to their professional relationship Brown and Dailey met in 1978 when Brown’s family was named Missouri Farm Bureau’s State Fair Farm Family. Dailey interviewed the Brown family with no idea that he would some day teach Brown many of MU’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources operations across separate departments.
“There’s only a handful of people that have a significant impact on your life,” Brown said “Duane is one of them.”
He feels that he owes Dailey not only for assistance writing, but also for getting press through his large media and associated press network.
“He got a lot of press and helped tell my story,” Brown said.
In addition to his large professional network, Brown is highly impressed by how well-known Dailey is throughout the farming community in general. When they would attend meetings together, many farmers would know Dailey personally.
“I often say Duane is one of the critical sources of getting agricultural information out to farmers in Missouri,” Brown said.
In the same sense, Dailey views himself as a translator. He prides himself in taking complicated information and relaying it to farmers in their own language. Dailey writes short, cutting out adjectives and adverbs, a skill he says comes from reading a lot.
Dailey doesn’t write for entertainment—he writes to evoke change in his readers—even if that means doing the same story over and over again. Finding interesting stories and relaying them is his job, a job that he says is not done. There are many stories that he wants to share, whether it be in a local paper or in a national press release.
“That’s it. I want to do stories. Story after story,” Dailey said. “Journalism opens doors.”
Dailey, the journalist who just won’t quit, finds his work to be addictive, exciting and fun. He studies his craft and involves journalism in every aspect of his life.
“Until his dying day he will be in that loop, and he will never get out of that loop,” Womack said. ”He will inspire everyone he encounters.”