My first story on my assigned beat as a rookie reporter fresh out of graduate school was about a new town administrator in Weare, N.H., population: 9,000. I hustled to find people who knew the man from his previous job in northern Maine and stood outside his office begging for an interview his first day in office, worrying what my editors would say when he asked to wait a day before talking to the press.
The story ran, with all the placement the news merited: below the fold in the Concord Monitor’s local section.
I moved on, covering local town news, then the Concord City Council, then state government. From the Monitor to other reporting jobs and, nearly 20 years later, the Boston Globe editorial board.
When I began working there in 2006, the Concord Monitor was a training ground. It gave young journalists an opportunity to learn through traditional shoe-leather reporting, running out late at night to cover an arson at a construction site or digging through City Council meeting agendas to discover plans for a $40,000 crosswalk.
We also had the opportunity to take on ambitious projects, often in the political arena. The Monitor, in first-in-the-nation primary state New Hampshire, built up a reputation as a regional political powerhouse, shaping coverage of the presidential race every four years. Its editorial board provided a centrist liberal foil to the conservative Manchester Union Leader, and its news reporting was in-depth and issues-driven. While covering the 2008 primary, I recreated how a little-known Illinois state senator named Barack Obama ended up delivering the 2004 Democratic National Convention speech that catapulted him to stardom, and I was one of the first reporters to ask Obama about his ties to a controversial Christian pastor.
No one was more responsible for the Monitor’s excellence than the genial, brilliant, curious man in the editor’s office: Mike Pride, who was hired as managing editor in 1977 and would serve as the paper’s editor-in-chief for a quarter century. Pride, who died Monday at 76, was a historian and a journalistic luminary, who, in addition to leading the Monitor, administered and served on the board of the Pulitzer Prizes and coauthored several books, mainly about US military history.
By the time I arrived at the paper, Pride was no longer the smoking, junk food-eating, hard-driving, hands-on boss that Mark Travis, an editor who worked with Pride for more than 20 years, recalls. Travis compared Pride to “a very practical version of Plato … You felt you were in this amazing cave of a newsroom with this brilliant thinker who was always casting the shadow of the perfect newspaper on the wall,” Travis recalled.
Pride still had the same high standards and expectations, but reporters dealt mostly with the talented editors he had chosen to manage the paper’s daily operations.
“He hired so well,” recalled Felice Belman, whom Pride hired in 1988 as a State House reporter then promoted to numerous editing roles until she succeeded Pride as editor-in-chief. “Very serious, very ambitious, mostly young people right out of college who were still learning how to do this work, and he trusted us all with big stories. He set our ambitions way higher than all the other papers we competed with back then and just assumed we would do it.” Belman is a former Globe deputy news editor who is now The New York Times’s deputy metro editor.
Pride’s ambitions paid off. It is impossible to forget the immense pride and joy in his voice as he announced, in April 2008, that his beloved newspaper had won the Pulitzer Prize in feature photography for photographer Preston Gannaway’s moving, years-long project with reporter Chelsea Conaboy chronicling a woman’s death from cancer and its effects on her family.
Pride created a paper where local news coverage was valued for its human impact, where small-town stories were seen as important and fascinating, and where reporters knew they would hear a critique of their work from neighbors at the grocery store. Coverage of politics was important because of what the policies meant for the people who would have to live with them.
“All the culture flowed down from him,” said Danielle Barrick, who was hired as a copy editor in 2003 and held different roles at the publication through 2011. “To me, it was this culture of thoughtfulness and curiosity and a little bit of humor, a deep appreciation for New Hampshire and all the quirks that make New Hampshire New Hampshire.”
Monitor journalists would traditionally move on after a few years. We, as a group, became reporters, photographers, and editors in newsrooms nationwide, filmmakers, authors, and teachers.
As news of Pride’s impending death spread through a Concord Monitor alumni Facebook group, I reconnected with some of my former colleagues. Like long-lost family members, we celebrated hearing each other’s voices after so many years, even as we mourned the leader we were about to lose. Every person said Pride had, in some way, impacted their life.
Barrick said Pride offered her a model of how to see the world as an adult through a lens of thoughtful curiosity. Even as she left journalism to work in nonprofit communications, Barrick said she still sees the world that way.
“I wonder if all of us are in some way in our hearts still part of Mike’s newsroom,” Barrick said.
If so, we are all lucky.