Missourian's Rust says leadership comes from people, rarely institutions

Sunday, February 26, 2012
Jon K. Rust

Jon K. Rust loved growing up in Cape Girardeau, and with children of his own now, he wants the city to be as enjoyable to them as it was to him.

Rust, who has helmed the Southeast Missourian for more than seven years as its publisher, has lived in New York City, Boston, Washington D.C. and Moscow. He wrote cases and textbook chapters on Internet media companies while on the staff of Harvard Business School, where he attained his MBA with distinction and was president of the Leadership and Ethics Forum.

In addition to being publisher, he is co-president of Rust Communications -- which includes 50 newspapers in eight states -- with his brother Rex Rust. Jon Rust is a board member of The Associated Press, the world's largest and most trusted independent source of news and information. He currently leads the AP's technology committee and is a member of the board's executive committee. He is also chairman of the Local Media Association, a national organization that assists newspapers in New Media innovation.

Of all the places Rust has lived and worked, he prefers the Cape Girardeau area for his family.

"There are few places as great to raise a family as Cape Girardeau or Jackson," said Rust, who is expecting his third child later this year with his wife Victoria, a native of Belarus. "The amenities and activities continue to develop, and the people are genuinely warm, helpful and honest."

Cape Girardeau has several publicly funded entities that cater to families and young people, Rust said. Discovery Playhouse, Cape Splash water park, Melaina's Magical Playland, the Conservation Nature Center, the Crisp Museum at Southeast Missouri State University, and the library system all provide educational entertainment for youngsters, Rust said.

Cape Girardeau is poised for growth when you couple the publicly funded amenities with private businesses like Le Bounce and Lazy L Safari, great schools, strong churches, good shopping, and a diverse industrial and medical economic base, Rust said.

"This area continues to grow as a wonderful destination for people to visit and a great place to raise a family," Rust said.

Rust said in order to continue Cape Girardeau's growth as a family-friendly city, residents and administrators must continue to work to grow industries like manufacturing and health care.

"We all need to continue the basic blocking and tackling of creating a positive environment for development," he said. "It's human nature to want to find a silver bullet, which solves all problems. But success ultimately will come from sustained effort, doing the small things right, working together regionally and not getting caught up in parochialism."

The Southeast Missourian is doing its part to promote an environment that will lead to development by being reflective of the issues and people that push Cape Girardeau forward, Rust said.

"Our primary role is to report accurately on the news of the day, present information to help people engage in activities locally to their own benefit, and provide a forum for the community to discuss issues," Rust said.

People frequently contact the newspaper and ask it to push an initiative, but Rust notes that it is not the newspaper that causes change.

"We are not activists; we are primarily a resource and forum," he said. "Real change will come from people who roll up their sleeves and dedicate themselves to making change happen, whatever it is. In the end, the newspaper can draw attention to something, but truly defining leadership comes from individuals and rarely from institutions."

Rust has been one to roll up his sleeves. He has worked diligently with the United Way of Southeast Missouri to better the community, according to Nancy Jernigan, United Way executive director.

Rust served on the organization's board of directors from 2000 to 2006 and helped it zero in on issues affecting Cape Girardeau.

"He was extremely active on the board, especially with our community impact project," Jernigan said.

Rust helped figure out not only what organizations needed funding, but other innovative ways the United Way could help, Jernigan said.

"I have a great deal of respect for Jon and the Rusts," Jernigan said. "He has a lot of compassions and has taken on certain responsibilities at the newspaper and used them to strengthen the community."

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