Mike Pride, Who Proved a Regional Newspaper Could Work, Dies at 76
Mike Pride, who transformed the New Hampshire newspaper The Concord Monitor into a prizewinning paragon of regional journalism, mentoring generations of reporters and editors, defying the trope about the dying small-town newspaper and exerting an outsize impact on his profession, died on April 24 in a hospice in Palm Harbor, Fla. He was 76.
The cause was myelofibrosis, a rare type of blood cancer, his son Dr. Yuri Pride said.
As The Monitor’s managing editor from 1978 to 1983 and its editor until he retired in 2008, Mr. Pride won the National Press Foundation’s Editor of the Year Award in 1987 for overseeing The Monitor’s eloquent coverage of the death of a hometown heroine, the astronaut and teacher Christa McAuliffe, in the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.
And he presided over a newspaper that was regarded as a model of objective reporting — in contrast to the strident front-page editorials of its fellow New Hampshire paper The Manchester Union Leader — and an unparalleled training ground in political reporting for young journalists every four years, when the state, as the first to hold a presidential primary, emerges from relative obscurity to draw a scrum of candidates from both major parties and busloads of the national press corps.
In 2008, Preston Gannaway of The Monitor won the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography for her intimate chronicle of a family coping with a parent’s terminal illness. Under Mr. Pride’s leadership, the New England Newspaper & Press Association named The Monitor New England newspaper of the year 19 times.
“We see ourselves as a local paper, deeply rooted in this community,” he told American Journalism Review in 2003. “Even though we’re small, we don’t think that way.”
The newspaper’s daily sales belied its impact. Its circulation of about 22,000 was equal to half the population of Concord, which, as the state capital, swells with politicians, lobbyists and patronage in general when the Legislature is in session.
During Mr. Pride’s tenure, The Monitor covered the elevation of David Souter, a former New Hampshire attorney general, to the United States Supreme Court; the wholesale release of patients from mental hospitals without sufficient support in the communities to which they were being discharged; the Roman Catholic diocese’s efforts to protect priests accused of sexual abuse; and the appointment of the first openly gay Episcopal bishop.
Mr. Pride introduced a diverse rotating selection of community columnists and included a regular feature about prison life, written by an inmate who was serving a life sentence for murdering his ex-wife’s boyfriend. He invited local poets to newsroom lunches to encourage reporters to write more lyrically. Thanks to the support he earned from the publishers under whom he worked, the newsroom staff grew at one point to 46 from 18.
Like any other newsroom, The Monitor’s wasn’t nirvana. Mr. Pride could be gruff and intimidating. And on the morning the Challenger exploded in 1986, he was in court for a lawsuit involving overtime pay in which The Monitor was unsuccessfully arguing that reporters should be treated not as hourly workers but as salaried professionals.
From 2014 to 2017, Mr. Pride served as the administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes; he was the first and only former Pulitzer juror and board member (he was its co-chairman in 2008) to hold that position. He recruited a more diverse jury and opened the competitions to online and print magazines.
“He taught us the power of words, and how to wield them judiciously, but without fear,” said Jo Becker, who worked at The Monitor and later became a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter for The New York Times.
“His ambitions for us were certainly beyond our actual abilities back then,” she added. “But that was his gift. He believed in us, and somehow he made us believe that we were capable of meeting the high bar he set.”
Charles Michael Pride was born on July 31, 1946, in Bridgeport, Conn. His father, Charles, held various jobs, from selling cars to designing cemeteries. His mother, Bernadine (Nordstrom) Pride, was a county clerk and a homemaker. The family moved to Clearwater, Fla., when Mike was 2.
He got his first byline at 14 after his cousin Ron Pride, a sports editor for The Tampa Tribune, recruited him to cover a high school track meet. After flunking out of the University of Florida in 1966, Mr. Pride enlisted in the Army, learned Russian at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., and was deployed to West Germany. There, he intercepted hints that the Soviet Union was about to invade Czechoslovakia — an intelligence coup that a skittish senior officer filed away without forwarding it urgently.
After he was discharged, Mr. Pride was hired as a sports reporter at The Tribune. He worked nights, which enabled him to earn a bachelor’s degree during the day at the University of South Florida in 1972. After graduation, he was hired by The Clearwater Sun, where he eventually became city editor. He later took a job at The Tallahassee Democrat, and he was working as an editor there when he was recruited by The Monitor’s publisher.
Mr. Pride wrote hundreds of columns for The Monitor and other publications, including Brill’s Content magazine. He wrote, co-wrote or edited eight books, including several about the Civil War and World War II.
In 1970 he married Monique Praet, who survives him. In addition to his son Yuri, he is also survived by two other sons, Sven and Misha; six grandchildren; his brother, Robin; and his sister, Pamela Pride.