While preparing to step down as editor of the Concord Monitor, having turned the newspaper of New Hampshire’s capital city into a magnet for young talent, Mike Pride traded his corner office for a reporter’s notepad.
“I got into journalism to write,” he recalled in “My Year in the Trenches,” a 2008 Columbia Journalism Review essay. So as his career ended he revisited his beginnings, covering news and writing on deadline during his final year.
“It was a shock how difficult it was to do at 61 what had seemed like second nature at 18,” he wrote. “Reporting is a humbling job, not a glamorous one. Time — how reporters spend it, how little control they have over it — is always a factor.”
Mr. Pride, one of the nation’s best-known and most respected editors of small newspapers in the years before the Internet changed journalism’s landscape, was 76 when he died Monday in hospice care in Palm Harbor, Fla., of myelofibrosis, a rare blood cancer.
“Mike inspired so many of the journalists who passed through the Concord Monitor because he expected excellence, and somehow made us believe we were capable of it,” said Jo Becker, who began her reporting career there.
“He made us all understand something really important, which is that words have power. You need to write fearlessly, while wielding that power judiciously,” said Becker, who went on to become an investigative reporter at The Washington Post and now The New York Times, sharing three Pulitzer Prizes.
When Bob Hohler was a young Monitor reporter, Mr. Pride dispatched him to cover the space shuttle Challenger, whose astronauts included Concord High School teacher Christa McAuliffe. She and the crew died when the Challenger exploded after liftoff, and the Monitor’s coverage of the tragedy became a milestone story for the paper.
“It’s no exaggeration that American journalism is better thanks to Mike Pride,” said Hohler, now a Globe sports investigative reporter.
“None of the meaningful moments in my career would have been possible if not for Mike, and there are many others like me,” Hohler added. “In places around the world where journalism matters — from Main Street in Concord to world capitals and global hotspots — there are reporters with roots in Mike’s newsroom who are guided by his spirit and high standards.”
During Mr. Pride’s tenure mentoring future Pulitzer-winners, the Monitor received 19 Newspaper of the Year awards in its circulation category from what is now the New England Newspaper & Press Association.
In 1997, Mr. Pride received the Yankee Quill Award, whose honorees are selected under the auspices of the New England Society of News Editors, for lifetime achievement and contributions to journalism. A 1984 Nieman fellow at Harvard University, he received the National Press Foundation’s 1986 editor of the year award for the Monitor’s Challenger coverage.
“We will miss Mike,” said US Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat whose rise through the state Senate into the governor’s office and beyond was chronicled by the Monitor under Mr. Pride’s leadership.
“He was such a pillar of the news community in New Hampshire for such a long time,” she said, adding that along with being well-respected for his work, Mr. Pride “really elevated the role of daily newspapers in the state.”
Mr. Pride did so through leadership savvy and the good fortune of New Hampshire’s longtime first-in-the-nation presidential primary. Promising young reporters knew they’d have a chance to interview top national politicians and future presidents if they landed a Monitor job.
More than politics awaited them, though. A lover of poetry, Mr. Pride invited his New Hampshire poet friends such as Donald Hall and Charles Simic into the newsroom for brown-bag lunches with reporters.
“Even under the tyranny of daily deadlines, journalists can help themselves by thinking like a poet,” Mr. Pride wrote in a 2006 Nieman Reports essay.
Felice Belman, who succeeded Mr. Pride as the Monitor’s editor and is now deputy metro editor at the Times, recalled that “he wanted to impress upon young writers that even journalism should have some poetry in it. He aspired to have us all write elegantly and deliberately.”
C. Michael Pride was born in Bridgeport, Conn., on July 31, 1946, and was a toddler when his family moved to Clearwater, Fla.
His father, Charles Pride, was a World War II combat veteran and a salesman. His mother, Bernadine Nordstrom Pride, worked as a clerk in Clearwater City Hall.
Mr. Pride was a teenager when a cousin who was a Tampa Tribune editor asked if he could cover a high school track meet — his first byline.
After graduating from Clearwater High School, Mr. Pride attended the University of Florida before flunking out and joining the Army, which stationed him in West Germany as a Russian linguist.
While there, he met Monique Praet, whose father was part of the Belgian occupying force in West Germany. They married in 1970 and Monique, a painter, later taught languages in middle school.
“His life with my mother was a love story,” said their son Dr. Yuri Pride of Atlanta. “They loved each other from the moment they met until the moment he took his last breath. They were each other’s lives. They showed us kids what love is — being there and putting the other person first.”
Returning to Florida after the Army, Mr. Pride worked nights in the Tribune’s sports department while finishing a bachelor’s degree at the University of South Florida.
An editing stint at the Clearwater Sun followed, and then a Tallahassee Democrat editing job, before the Monitor hired him as managing editor in 1978. He was promoted to editor in 1983 and retired in 2008.
During on-and-off retirement, when he and his wife divided their lives between a Bow, N.H., home and extended time in Clearwater, he also wrote books and essays.
Through his post-Monitor years, Mr. Pride remained an informal adviser to those who had worked there, the editor whose insights and approval reporters and editors still sought as surely as they did when he marked up each day’s paper with red pen critiques for the newsroom to review.
“You really wanted to get it right for him,” Becker recalled. “You wanted him to be pleased.”
A service will be announced for Mr. Pride, who in addition to his wife, Monique, and son Yuri leaves two other sons, Sven of Vienna, Va., and Misha of South Portland, Maine; a sister, Pam of Asheville, N.C.; a brother, Robin of Clearwater, Fla.; and six grandchildren.
“He trusted us to do serious journalism and he set really high expectations for a newsroom that was pretty small,” Belman, who formerly was the Globe’s metro editor, said of Mr. Pride. “To have landed in a place with such a serious, wonderful editor who also managed to make all of it into such a grand adventure, I feel so lucky.”
As for Mr. Pride, he felt fortunate to have taken time at the end of his Monitor years to report, to write, and to practice his profession on the streets once more, instead of behind a desk.
“After almost a year of reporting, I appreciate more than ever what journalists do — in part because they are doing more than ever,” he wrote in his Columbia Journalism Review essay.
“This year of reporting has been a gift,” he said. “It’s the best job on earth.”
Correction: Because of a reporting error, a previous version of this obituary incorrectly identified the organization that bestows the Yankee Quill Award. Honorees are chosen by the New England Academy of Journalists under the auspices of the New England Society of News Editors, according to the New England Newspaper & Press Association.
Bryan Marquard can be reached at email@example.com.