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Writer was rare talent

To the Journal editor:

Dixie. She could have dropped her surname, Franklin, from every by-line she had and everyone would have known who Dixie, the writer, was.

The recent death of Dixie Franklin at 93 in Gwinn ends an interesting, era in Upper Peninsula journalism. She was an independent writer, a woman who literally lived by her wits, and she came well armed. She would work on an Upper Peninsula story, and as soon as it cleared her typewriter she was onto the next one.

Dixie wrote locally as a columnist, and did special assignments. She also wrote as a paid stringer for the Chicago Tribune, Milwaukee Journal, and others. Stringers were on call. If a far-away newspaper needed a story from this area, they would contact Dixie. She wrote the story they assigned, or she could help them with fact-checking other stories, or leads on stories for visiting reporters and editors.

It’s a tough way to make a living because you never knew when the phone would ring, or for how long the phone would not ring. Dixie began travel writing, selling stories to travel magazines and she made a good living, and an excellent reputation supplying Midwest Living and Michigan Living as well as others. I helped her with a story on Drummond Island once, and marveled at how much she could wring from two days of wandering.

Dixie had no agenda except to write stories she wanted people to read. She had a careful, organized approach, and then she also had her voice. Dixie grew up in Texas, and her gentle drawl, the sweet southern accent never left her. That southern softness won her solid conversations with people and facts that she didn’t have to work out of people. They felt comfortable with her, and for good reason.

Dixie was part of a special time when women in Marquette and the U.P. made a living in local journalism. Pat O’Day, Mary Kinnunen, Jane Jarvis and others emerged in the 1970 and 80s as creative voices with a perspective that had been missing for decades. What we now take for granted as talented women journalists started with a few special women. Dixie set the pattern for any woman who wanted to be an independent journalist.

An eye for a story, good information, interesting writing. It’s a simple formula but hard to maintain for a lifetime. Dixie did that, with grace.

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