Mike Pride, who cultivated excellence in journalism as a New Hampshire newspaper editor and later rewarded it as administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, has died. He was 76.
Pride, who died Monday in Florida from complications of a blood disorder, was the only person to serve as a juror, board member, board co-chair and administrator for the Pulitzers. But before he began bestowing some of journalism’s highest honors, he spent decades nurturing reporters often just starting their careers.
Under his 25 years of leadership, the Concord Monitor expanded its staff and scope — attracting national attention for ambitious projects and aggressive coverage of both local issues and the national politicians who showed up every four years for New Hampshire’s presidential primary. The newspaper became something of a magnet for reporters looking to learn a lot, quickly, and then move on.
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Sarah Koenig, host and co-creator of the award-winning podcast Serial, was a Monitor political reporter in the late 1990s. In their first encounter, Pride walked up to her desk, informed her she had misspelled the word “stationery” and walked away. She recalled that moment Tuesday as “thrilling and terrifying,” but said she soon came to regard Pride as a fair, supportive leader.
“I felt like it was so clear that he was in my corner as a reporter,” she said. “He just always was so smart, and calm and straight with you.”
Pride was born on July 31, 1946, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and grew up in Clearwater, Florida. After serving as a Russian linguist in the Army, he began his journalism career as a sports writer at the Tampa Tribune. He became editor of the Monitor in 1983 after serving as managing editor, retired in 2008 and then returned briefly in 2014.
During his time as editor, the paper won the New England Newspaper of the Year Award 19 times and was cited by Time magazine and the Columbia Journalism Review as one of the best papers in the country. Pride was named Editor of the Year by the National Press Foundation in 1987 for directing coverage of the Challenger space shuttle disaster and death of New Hampshire teacher Christa McAuliffe. And in 2008, the Monitor won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography.
“His contribution was to say what should have been unnecessary, which is that local news is as interesting and essential as national news, and the people who read local news deserve as good reporting and writing as the people who read The New York Times,” said Jane Harrigan, a writing coach and former journalism professor, reporter and editor who spent four years at the Monitor in the 1980s.
Alec MacGillis, a reporter for ProPublica and editor-at-large for the Baltimore Banner, remembers covering the 2000 presidential primary at the Monitor in a year when the paper also published 100 lengthy profiles of the state’s most interesting characters.
“We were just aiming so high, and (Pride) was holding us to such high expectations,” he said. Pride’s reaction when reporters fell short also has stuck with him, MacGillis said.
“It was never anger or disapproval, it was more just the sobriety with which he would regard you,” he said. “And you just so wanted to have done better, and to do better in the future.”
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Pride joined the Pulitzer Board in 1999 and served as administrator from 2014-2017, during which the board opened its journalism competition to online and print magazines. He also was the author of numerous books, and continued writing columns for the Monitor as recently as this year. He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Monique, three sons and six grandchildren.
“He was an amazing father who taught by example what a good life can be, to work hard for things, to tell the truth, to use as few words as possible, to apologize when you’re wrong and to love as often as possible,” his son, Yuri, said in an email.
Pride also could be dad-like at the office, Koenig recalled.
“It was like, Don’t cross him. Don’t (expletive) up,” she said. “But, it’s your dad. He kind of loves you. And he’s gonna help you out.”
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