By Charlene Tolbert
The Evansville Courier & Press
EVANSVILLE, IN– J. Bruce Baumann, editor of the Courier & Press, is retiring effective March 31.
Baumann, a former newspaper photojournalist and picture editor who celebrated his 64th birthday Sunday, has led the newsroom since his return to his hometown as managing editor of the newspaper in 1998. He became executive editor in 2004 and has served as editor since March 2006.
The veteran newsman decided to retire because he wants to spend more time with his wife, Alison, enjoying their family and their Posey County farm.
Baumann started his journalism career of more than 46 years as a sports intern at the Evansville Courier while still a student at Central High School. He eventually became the director of photography at the Sunday Courier & Press. He went on to work at daily newspapers in Dubuque, IA; Grand Rapids, MI; Mansfield, OH; San Jose, CA; Pittsburgh, PA; and Monterey, CA. He also worked as a picture editor, designer, and photographer at National Geographic magazine, a job which took him to such distant locales as Nepal and Pakistan.
His newspaper work has earned him more than 500 awards. Baumann was NPPA's Region 4 Photographer of the Year in 1968 and 1969 while shooting for the Courier & Press in Indiana, and in 1970 while working for the Grand Rapids Press in Michigan. He received NPPA's highest honor, the Joseph A. Sprague Award, in 1992, an NPPA's President's Award in 1973, and the Jim Gordon Editor of the Year Award in 2005.
Serving as editor of Scripps Howard Publishing, Inc., a book and special publications company, Baumann produced 15 books. He also was a visiting professor of journalism at Syracuse University for four years.
Publisher and president of the Courier & Press Jack Pate, noting that Baumann would "leave large shoes to fill," said, "Bruce's passion for quality journalism, both visual and written, has enabled him to lead the Courier & Press staff to numerous local, state, and national awards for excellence. ... I believe the most notable was the Courier & Press being twice recognized by our peers at the Hoosier State Press Association as the Blue Ribbon Newspaper, the best daily newspaper in Indiana.
"Perhaps," Pate said, "the most important recognition of Bruce and his staff's performance is the way they have been judged by our readers; the Courier & Press has bucked a national trend of declining circulation and actually led all of Scripps newspapers with daily circulation growth in 2006 and likewise led all of Scripps with the highest 'net promoter score' from its readers, an index determined by reader responses when asked if they would recommend our newspaper to a friend. Bruce has served this company, Scripps and our readers well throughout his career and has been recognized throughout our industry for his creativity and innovation."
Pate concluded by saying, "Choosing a replacement for Bruce is a very important decision. We want to continue the tradition of excellence this newspaper has established. And the position of editor affects the community as well as the newspaper. Because it's such an important decision, I don't want to get in a hurry. I will interview all internal and external candidates in a timely fashion."
Alan Horton, retired senior vice president of the Newspaper Division of the E. W. Scripps Company, echoed Pate's sentiments. "Journalism is all about storytelling, and it requires great skill and great passion both for people and for their stories. Bruce has always had a remarkable, unusual passion for both, and that has combined to make him a sensational editor. Bruce also brings visual skills to a newspaper. He has always used pictures better than any other editor I've known. Over the years, Bruce has worked with some really great journalists, and all of us have learned from him.
"Bruce is a sponge," Horton said. "He learns from everyone he's with, whether they're journalists or not, and he stores it away to use it later at just the right time. He'll be missed at the Courier & Press, and I wish him well in his retirement. But I hope he will continue to contribute as a consultant or an adviser or as the mentor he has always been."
Baumann has also been active in community organizations. Upon learning of his retirement, Leadership Evansville executive director Lynn Miller-Pease said, "Bruce is a great asset to The Leadership Evansville Board of Directors. He is creative, direct and passionate. I can always count on Bruce for his unique perspective and his incredible ability to turn thoughts into action. Although he is retiring from the Courier & Press, I am sure he will enjoy the long list of additional community responsibilities I have prepared for him."
In his retirement announcement to staff members, Baumann recalled a discussion about management styles he'd had with an editor shortly after his return. He said, "I told her my job is to stand in the middle of the newsroom, flap my arms and convince us all that we can fly. That has basically been my style ever since. And, much to my delight, we have a newsroom that can fly, and on numerous occasions, has soared to the highest levels.”
Reprinted with permission. Some additional reporting was added by NPPA.