Four new inductees have been chosen for the Kansas Newspaper Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021.
• Lloyd Ballhagen, a former Harris Enterprises executive.
• Roxana Hegeman, long-time Associated Press correspondent in the Wichita bureau.
• Joel Klaassen, former owner of the Hillsboro Free Press and Kansas Publishing Ventures.
• Tom Slaughter, former AP bureau chief and later executive director of the Inland Press Association.
The four will be inducted during the Oct. 9 President’s Gala celebration at the Meridian Center in Newton.
Here are capsule biographies of the latest inductees:
A native of South Dakota, Ballhagen served in the U.S. Marine Corps.
He graduated from the University of South Dakota, where he was editor of the campus newspaper, The Valante.
In 1958, he was chosen for Harris Enterprises’ executive intern program.
After four years of training, he was named editor and publisher of the Spencer (Iowa) Daily Reporter and Sunday Times.
In 1970, he was named editor and publisher of the Hays Daily News, a newly acquired newspaper for Harris.
While in Hays, he was appointed assistant to the president of the Harris group, Peter McDonald.
He was named president of Harris in 1978. At the time, the company owned 11 daily newspapers and 13 radio stations.
He became president and CEO in 1984 and chairman of the board and CEO in 1992. He retired in 1997.
Ballhagen served as chairman of the KPTS Channel 8 board of trustees for two years, and was a member of that board for 20 years. In addition, he was chairman of the Reno County Chapter of the American Red Cross for two years, and vice president of the Reno County Historical Society. He also served as a board member of the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center for six years, during the building of its first major facility.
He also served on the board of the Inland Press Association.
Ballhagen died in 2020.
He had two sons, Kurt of Lawrence and Clint of Hutchinson.
On her first day on the job as the Wichita AP correspondent, the DeBruce Elevator near Haysville exploded.
Her stories through the years also included extensive coverage of the BTK killings, the long-running abortion battles that led to the murder of Dr. George Tiller and the tornadoes that ripped through Haysville and Greensburg.
Roxana Perez was born in Havana, but immigrated to the United States as a young child with her parents in 1960 following the Cuban revolution.
While attending the University of Texas at El Paso, she was named the “Outstanding Woman in College Journalism” by the Texas Press Women. She graduated with a degree in journalism in 1976 and later met and married Douglas Hegeman.
Following a stint at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, she and her husband founded the Belgrade (Montana) Independent Press, where the Hegemans handled every facet of publication from typesetting to advertising and subscription sales and bookkeeping. Exhausted, they sold the award-winning newspaper in 1982.
After a stop in Odessa (Texas) as the features editor, the Hegemans missed Montana and returned to Bozeman, where she covered government and agriculture for six years. After moving to Shoshone, Idaho, she landed her dream job as a newswoman at the AP bureau in New Orleans in 1994.
In 1998, an opening with the AP in Wichita caught her attention.
A private pilot herself and a former hobby farmer in Montana, the thought of working in the nation’s aviation hub and in an agricultural area appealed to her.
When she didn’t hear back in her request for an interview, she told chief of bureau Paul Stevens the AP would be hard-pressed to find another reporter for that job “who could fly a plane and milk a cow.”
Stevens hired her.
Hegeman has twice won the Fred Moen AP Staffer of the Year award.
Her husband is now retired from teaching.
They have three grown children: Aaron, Eric and Sarah, and four grandchildren.
As a teenager, Klaassen helped run the presses for the late Bud Bruce at the Hillsboro Star-Journal.
While a student at the University of Kansas, he translated the knowledge and experience he gained at the Star-Journal into a job with the university’s press department and was associated with the University Daily Kansan.
He later joined the staff of the Wichita Sun, an upstart newspaper that challenged the domination of the Wichita Eagle for a time.
He and Don Ratzlaff joined forces to introduce the Hillsboro Free Press in 1998, a free total market coverage newspaper.
Klaassen became known for more than just his newspaper venture. To expand the revenue sources for his operation, he established a book publishing company, Print Source Direct, where he helped people from all around the world get their projects into print.
He also used his printing connections to start a marketing company years before others were advocating for newspapers to do so. The Free Press has helped customers with custom design and printing for years.
In 2014, Klaassen sold his majority interest to Joey Young, now past president of the Kansas Press Association.
He and his wife, Nancy, have two children, Amy and Dan, and two grandchildren.
Klaassen continues to consult for the company.
Slaughter’s career has spanned from being an Associated Press correspondent and AP executive to his leadership of the Inland Press Association and its foundation.
He began his newspaper career in 1973 as a reporter in AP’s Topeka bureau, covering the Kansas Legislature and state government.
After leaving Topeka, Slaughter covered legislatures in several states including South Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming and Florida.
Slaughter joined AP’s headquarters staff in 1990, after serving as AP bureau chief in Newark, N.J., and Seattle. He held a series of executive positions, including vice president and director of strategic planning for the international news agency.
During his time as director of strategic planning, the AP modernized its photo transmission systems, purchased an international television agency, and launched its new media division.
He later served as director of AP Digital, vice president of new media markets, and vice president of U.S. newspaper markets.
Slaughter became executive director of the Inland Press Association and Inland Press Foundation in 2011. The association, founded in 1875, had nearly 1,000 daily and weekly newspaper members.
Slaughter remained executive director of the foundation following the 2019 merger of the Inland Press Association and the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association.
The foundation became wholly independent following the merger and continues to support newspaper-focused training and programs through a grant agreement with America’s Newspapers, the successor to IPA and SNPA.
He holds a B.S. in journalism from the University of Kansas and an MBA in finance from City University of Seattle.
He and his wife, Pam, live in Lawrence and have two grown children, and three grandchildren.