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A Screening Dedicated to a Late, Great Journalism Prof

Tonight at the Tri-State Museum in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, there will be a very special screening of PBS documentary The Last Cowboy. The event is being held in the name of one of the movie’s champions, William “Bill” Kunerth, a retired journalism professor who passed away last December.

From a recent bit of coverage in the Butte County Post:

The ranch-raised, nationally-recognized journalism professor hoped someone would show the real life of a cowboy in a modern setting. The 6:30 p.m. showing will be free or by donation in memory of the longtime volunteer and museum supporter…

The documentary arose when [director Jon] Alpert met [lifelong cowboy Vern] Sager when the filmmaker was working for the Today show. He was doing a story that included following a homeless Native American from New York City back to his home on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Alpert, who said he had always been fascinated by cowboys, was surprised to learn that there were white cowboys on the reservation who leased land from the tribe.

As an obituary for Kunerth elegantly reminded last December, one of his students – Sacramento Bee staffer Tom Knudson – went on to win two Pulitzer prizes. After decorated service in World War II, Kunerth earned his Master’s in journalism from the Medill School in 1952. He taught for three years at He received a master’s degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism in 1952. He taught for three years at Black Hills State University and for 30 at Iowa State University.

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