Fort Myers editor Dan Martin, protege of ‘heart of journalism’ protege, dies

Danny A. Martin, a tough and generous reporter and former publisher of The News-Press died June 26 in Fort Myers. He was 80 years old.

Martin worked most of his professional career for Gannett, the parent company of The News-Press and USA Today, where he was a founding member and columnist in the early 1980s.

Born in the coalfield of Stirrat, West Virginia in 1941, young Martin was determined not to stay in the mines. A voracious reader who still kept a newspaper, he got his first newspaper job at age 13 for the Charleston Gazette. He went to Marshal University in Huntington, West Virginia to study journalism and marketing. In 1961 he joined the army and was stationed in Germany for two years. Upon returning to the United States, he protected protesters in Selma, Alabama, and stood guard during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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He began his career in 1963 as a general reporter at his hometown newspaper, the Logan Banner in West Virginia. In 1964 he married Joann Graver and they had two sons. Then it was on the Charleston Gazette — the paper he delivered as a kid — as a general reporter and legislative reporter, before joining Gannett in 1971 as editor of Michigan’s Battle Creek Enquirer.

In 1982, Martin became a founding staff member, editorial page editor and columnist for USA Today, then served as regional editor of the national daily. He ran a number of network newspapers and served as vice-president of Gannett East, before becoming president and publisher of The News-Press in 1989. The following year The News-Press won the grand prize of the Robert F Kennedy Journalism Awards. for “Far From the Dream”, a 12-part series about black issues in the region in 1990.

Martin’s career has been marked by stubborn perfectionism. “Growing up, it was difficult to watch the local TV news with him,” his son Steven recalls, “because he often yelled at the TV because they got the story wrong.”

His management philosophy was simple: “We try to ensure that all team members – from the most senior to the most junior – know the mission and understand their part. And then we try to encourage them to actively participate in achieving the goals. It’s really not brain surgery.. we’re just asking “Where are we?” What do we want to be? And how to get there? “

Martin left Fort Myers in 1996 for a position at the Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, Mo. The following year, his 32-year-old son, Dorn, associate editor of The News-Press, was killed in a crash. car. .

Former colleagues remembered him fondly. Bill Miller worked with him when Martin was the Enquirer’s editor and Miller “a rookie on the copy desk,” he wrote in an email. “I have always been indebted to him for encouraging and supporting me early in my 37-year career at Enquirer.

“Like many others, I have a few lively anecdotes about Dan at work, but two stand out for me: when my wife and I returned from adopting a baby girl in South Korea in the summer of 1978 , he let me write my first published story for the Enquirer, complete with photos – and it took up an entire page of a Sunday paper. He even wrote a teaser for the front page with photo. Still the longest published article I have ever written for the newspaper after thousands of stories and columns!

Former News-Press investigative reporter Lee Melsek called Martin “a badass who defended his reporters against the politician’s darts with great vigor… The best of all News-Press editors for whom I worked “. The affection went both ways; Martin’s son, said: “He used to tell me how he pissed off Lee Melsek because of their differences of opinion.”

Martin also “defended middle managers against corporate egos,” recalled Heidi Knapp Rinella, editor of news articles at the time.

In an email, former News-Press editor Mike Beck recalled him “mentioning to her (OK, probably moaned) in the hallway that it would be nice to have a goal of basketball set up so we could play after we put the paper out. He chuckled, but damn it, the next week there was a basketball hoop attached to the side of the warehouse. We played a lot of hoops there for a while, thanks to him.

After Martin retired to Fort Myers in 2002, he kept his hand in the press business, contributing guest columns to the opinion pages of The News-Press full of his tart, conservative wit. He blamed the city for letting the Edison & Ford Winter Estate rot… It’s such a shame that the Fort Myers City Council let the Edison Estate fall into disrepair. Such dismal stewardship of a public asset would be political death for council members if their constituents really cared about succession. But most Fort Myers voters don’t care, so council members act like dopes and leave the place to rot (into) the hands of a city council that just wants to use them as a cash cow until teats are dry.

Former News-Press editor Dan martin in later years

In another post, he lamented “that filthy cesspool known as manatee extremism”, which has led to areas of low-speed boating. “The only consolation of these new areas is that they will drive so many boaters off the river that congestion will certainly not be an issue. Of course, they’ll also chase millions of dollars from the economy and kick the clumsy, stumbling city of Fort Myers in the ass.

Over the years, Martin followed his colleagues and former newspapers on social media, chiding them for decisions he didn’t support and applauding them when they reached milestones.

For Sunday magazine Tropicalia’s 17th anniversary in 2018, he sent in a list of his favorite things from Southwest Florida: “Snook, rockfish, grouper, tarpon, trout, snapper, bass, ladybug, mackerel, mullet, sunset and wine.

When News-Press newsroom stalwart Mary Ann Husty retired in 2020, he noted that she had dedicated her career “to the heart of what journalism was: people living in their communities , loving their communities, protecting their communities by keeping them aware of natural and unnatural forces that threaten or sustain them.”

He could have described his own.

Dan Martin is survived by his wife Joann, his son Steven Martin (Jeanne), his granddaughter Jenna, his brother Paul Martin (Charlotte) and his sister Dova Harris (Karl). He was predeceased by his son Dorn, his father, mother and sister Gwen Claypool.

Funeral Mass will be held at the Church of the Resurrection of Our Lord at 8121 Cypress Lake Drive, Fort Myers at 11 a.m., Saturday, July 9. A reception will be held immediately afterwards – details will be provided at the funeral mass. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to be made to a charity that benefits veterans such as Hope for the Warriors, Wounded Warriors, Homes for our Troops, etc.

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