“Several years ago, as a sports writer for the Tampa Tribune, I did a story for the Sunday magazine about a player for a short-lived Florida franchise in the Eastern Hockey League,” Mike Pride wrote on Feb. 9, 1978, in the Concord (New Hampshire) Monitor.
“The headline: ‘What’s a great skate from Medicine Hat doing on the sunny Suncoast?’ Now, as I sit watching the snow swirl between me and the Monitor’s glass-walled pressroom, I figure you have grounds to ask ‘What’s a Florida journalist doing running the newsroom in white and drifting Concord?’”
His answer was simple.
Pride and his wife, Monique, wanted to raise their family in a place that felt like small-town America. And he wanted that town to have a rich and reflective newspaper.
“I think the Monitor should be a newspaper to which all views have access,” he wrote as the paper’s new managing editor. “What you think of an issue is news. You are in the community, and you ought to be in the newspaper today, tomorrow or next week, not just when you have a child, marry or die.”
Pride pursued that mission first in Florida, then New Hampshire, then as the administrator for one of journalism’s highest honors, the Pulitzer Prizes.
He died April 24 at age 76 of complications from myelofibrosis, a rare blood cancer.
Growing up in Clearwater, Pride excelled at things he found interesting, and one of those things was reporting. In high school, he started covering high school sports for his cousin, Ron Pride, then a Tampa Tribune editor.
“It just seemed to me always that, once he got into journalism, he had a great love for that and for clear writing,” said Don Pride, another cousin who worked for the then-St. Petersburg Times.
Mike Pride’s career at the Clearwater Sun included guiding coverage of a new group’s quiet arrival to Clearwater in the 1970s. According to news clips from the time, that group, The Church of Scientology, targeted the Sun’s leadership, including Pride, in hefty lawsuits.
“That was pressure time,” said Al Hutchison, the editor who hired Pride. “The Scientologists were very uncooperative. They didn’t want us asking questions, much less giving us answers.”
Pride sent his reporters to find answers. And he helped reshape the afternoon newspaper by setting high expectations.
“He just performed,” Hutchison said. “He just gave us new intelligence, new energy, new clarity of thought. He brought stability, he brought insight. He brought respect and reliability.”
Pride did all that again in Concord, New Hampshire, where he became editor in 1983 and grew the paper’s work and reputation, earning it multiple awards during his tenure. He served as editor when space shuttle Challenger exploded, killing everyone on board in 1986, including Concord teacher Christa McAuliffe. His newsroom’s coverage of that story earned him the distinction of being named editor of the year by the National Press Foundation.
In a 1986 piece for Newsweek, he showed what it felt like to watch and tell the story of the tragedy from Concord, where he was, by then, a local:
“I thought at first that Christa’s death would be hardest on the children. They had learned all about the shuttle, and in an age without heroes, they had found one in her. Most had witnessed the dreadful moment. Yet times like these remind us that children are resilient. Age robs us of the instinct to go forward without a backward glance. I even suspect now that we have tried too hard to make our children feel what we want them to feel. It is the adults in Concord who still have swollen eyes and stricken looks. They comprehend what was lost, and what was lost was a part of them. It is not a myth to say that everyone in town knew Christa. She was easy to meet, easy to talk to. Even those who never had the chance felt as though they had.”
A way with words. And people.
Pride retired from the Monitor in 2008. He served as the administrator for the Pulitzer Prizes from 2014 to 2017. He continued writing — books, columns, messages to old friends.
Remembrances of his work and life all include how he shaped the reporters he worked with through honest praise and unflinching critique.
“He was demanding,” said Tom Keyser, who worked as a reporter for Pride in Clearwater and Concord. “He would push you all the time. He could be sharp — a lot of people were intimidated by him.”
But reporters remembered Pride’s praise and criticism, Keyser said, because it was always right.
“I think so many people would say this, he was the most influential person in journalism that they ever worked with,” Keyser said. “He just was so good at it, and he made you good at it.”
Poynter news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this story.