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Former 'Monitor' editor Mike Pride named administrator of Pulitzer Prizes

This undated photo provided by the Pulitzer Administration in New York shows Mike Pride. On Tuesday, July 1, 2014, the board and Columbia University in New York, which administers the prizes, announced that Pride, the former editor of the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire who has served as co-chair of the Pulitzer board, has been named Pulitzer administrator. (AP Photo/Pulitzer Administration)

This undated photo provided by the Pulitzer Administration in New York shows Mike Pride. On Tuesday, July 1, 2014, the board and Columbia University in New York, which administers the prizes, announced that Pride, the former editor of the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire who has served as co-chair of the Pulitzer board, has been named Pulitzer administrator. (AP Photo/Pulitzer Administration)

Former Monitor editor Mike Pride, whose passion for local journalism and leadership on national stories made headlines within the profession, has been named administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, the Pulitzer Board announced yesterday.

Pride will work in concert with the Pulitzer Board, providing input on the selection of juries, prize deliberations and arranging the twice-annual meeting. The board awards annual prizes in journalism, letters, drama and music, and is based at Columbia University in New York City.

Pride retired as the Monitor’s editor in 2008, then returned this spring to oversee the paper’s management transition. He begins his new job Sept. 1, leaving Concord after 36 years.

“When the offer was made, I was so excited and knew it was something I wanted to do,” said Pride, 67. “I’ve raised three sons here and I love Concord, and I didn’t have any expectations I’d be leaving Concord. But this is an institution that I really revere, so it was kind of a no doubter.”

Pride replaces Sig Gissler, the former editor of the Milwaukee Journal, who will retire Aug. 1 after 12 years as administrator. A six-person committee conducted the search, led by Danielle Allen, a professor of social science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., and the Pulitzer Board chairwoman.

“Mike Pride is the ideal candidate to take the Pulitzer Prizes into their next phase,” Allen said in a press release. “He is committed to a free press and community journalism as pillars of democracy. He is a warm person of sound judgement and inspiring creativity.”

A former sports writer and city editor in Florida, Pride was named editor of the Monitor in 1983 and began stockpiling talent. Many writers hired and nurtured by Pride later moved to the biggest and best newspapers in the country.

One was Bob Hohler, who wrote sports for the Monitor in the early 1980s before Pride moved him into the news columnist slot in 1985. He’s now an award-winning investigative sports reporter for the Boston Globe.

For six months in ’85, Hohler shadowed Christa McAullife, the Concord High School social studies teacher chosen among 10,000 applicants to be the first citizen in space.

Hohler was at Kennedy Space Center in Florida when the shuttle exploded Jan. 28, 1986, sending him to his computer to write a pressure-packed deadline column, and the Monitor’s newsroom, full of young reporters, into a story that the entire world wanted to read about.

“In the darkest days after the tragedy, Mike guided me through a thicket of personal and professional challenges, for which I am forever grateful,” Hohler wrote in an email to the Monitor. “With his support, I eventually took another journalistic step I never imagined taking by writing a biography on Christa.”

In an instant, the Challenger story and McAuliffe’s death thrust Concord into the national spotlight, testing Pride’s leadership skills like never before, or since.

“There was a kind of shock in the newsroom,” Pride said. “So shocked by it, in fact, that not enough was going on to get the paper out. I pulled people together and then gave a pep talk, and everyone was amazing.”

Pride’s duties after the Challenger explosion took on multiple layers. He had to assign stories, beat TV news stations and newspapers from across the country to the punch, and deal with former Monitor staffers who had moved to bigger papers and wanted special access to sources and information.

Meanwhile, Pride remained mindful that Concord, his home, was grieving and needed a certain amount of privacy, making it difficult for him to decide what was newsworthy and what was sensationalism.

He recalled a service for McAuliffe at the First Congregational Church, where reporters, armed with microphones and cameras, pushed their way through to capture the event’s emotion.

“The press filled the place and caused a disruption,” Pride said. “They were standing on benches, and it was the first of several incidents of overzealous journalism, and that continued over the next few days.”

Pride later fascinated audiences with his opinion on the news media’s treatment of residents here, and he says that helped him win the award as the National Press Foundation’s Editor of the Year.

“I won that award because I spoke out at journalism conferences and criticized press behavior the first few days after the Challenger explosion,” Pride said.

Before retiring in 2008, Pride had helped the Monitor win the New England Newspaper of the Year Award 19 times. He dined at the White House after the Monitor’s endorsement of Bill Clinton, wrote history books about World War II and the Civil War, and worked on the Pulitzer Board.

Meanwhile, Pride brought nationally known writers such as former U.S. poet laureate Donald Hall to the Monitor, mindful that good writing needed to work in concert with good reporting skills. Jo Becker, a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for the New York Times, worked at the Monitor in the 1990s.

“I can still remember how Mike would bring New Hampshire poets into the newsroom to talk about how to make news writing lyrical,” Becker wrote in an email. “To me, that embodies who Mike is: someone devoted not just to our industry, but to all things literary.”

In 2007, Pride moved from his office into the newsroom to write before retiring. He covered local and national politics, but said yesterday that town meetings and high school graduations were just as exciting as anything else.

He cited his coverage of a Merrimack Valley High School senior who’d lost her parents in a fire, and graduates at Hillsboro-Deering who were entering the military while wars in Iraq and Afghanistan raged.

“We wanted to get the valedictorians and the number of graduates in our stories,” Pride said. “But we also wanted to get the themes that were human. That was really fun.”

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304 or rduckler@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @rayduckler.)

Legacy Comments2

Wonderful choice and much deserved. Congratulations to one of journalism's best editors. Tom Brown

A well deserved honor for one of the best in the business...The Pulitzer folks made a great choice...Tom Dunn, author of OUR PULITZER WINNING DRAMATISTS

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