Bill Nangle · 2011
Bill Nangle is an editor’s editor, and a Hoosier’s Hoosier. He has made his own newspaper one of the best of its size in the country. And he has been a force for good journalism throughout the state of Indiana.
Bill is a veteran newsman who moved without fear or hesitation into the 21st century world of multimedia journalism. He has never hesitated to embrace new ideas and new technology. But through all the changes, he has kept faith with journalism’s values and ethics. Like few others, he has demonstrated that new ways of presenting the news don’t have to reduce the profession’s dedication to the truth.
Bill has enjoyed a journalism career spanning nearly five decades, during which he has achieved a long list of major accomplishments that make his induction into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame a given.
He began as a freelance correspondent selling news of his home town, Wabash, Ind., to the Leader-Tribune in Marion.
In his early career, he held editing posts in Marion, Kokomo and Franklin. In the late 1960s, he served as managing editor of the Herald Courier in Bristol, Va. He returned to Indiana, joining The Times of Northwest Indiana in 1970, and since has worked as bureau chief, managing editor and for a quarter-century executive editor.
When Bill first joined The Times, it had another name (the Hammond Times) and was published in another place (in Hammond then, now in Munster). But Bill has presided over much more than a change of mastheads and offices. Under his leadership, The Times has acquired a reputation for excellence and innovation that has made it, for the last two decades, the most decorated newspaper in the state.
In 1992, The Times was named runner-up in Hoosier State Press Association competition for Blue Ribbon daily newspaper of the year. The next year, 1993, The Times won the Blue Ribbon. It won it again in 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2000 and 2003.
For those who have seen Bill Nangle at work in his newsroom, there is no mystery to that run of seven top awards in 11 years. Bill simply and consistently demands excellence in his newspaper, and he does not allow obstacles, excuses or lack of resources to get in the way.
Bill, who turned 66 in January, is a champion of new ways of story-telling, allowing reporters and photographers to try narratives, series and packages whose size, cost and audacity would have daunted many editors. He has been willing to rethink the way a newsroom should be managed. Over the years, The Times has been a laboratory for low-level decision-making.
“Bill Nangle is always learning and embracing the evolution of the industry,” says his publisher, William Masterson Jr.
A legion of journalists have learned and grown while working for Bill’s Times.
“Bill’s influence of effective leadership flourishes in newsrooms across the country,” wrote John M. Humenik, now publisher and editor of the Arizona Daily Star, who spent eight years in Bill’s newsroom. “Many publishers and editors lead highly performing operations today built on the principles they learned under Bill’s direction and coaching.”
As Northwest Indiana’s larger cities were eclipsed by its smaller cities and towns, Bill embraced community and neighborhood journalism. With as many as 10 zones in Lake and Porter counties and the border cities of Illinois, the newspaper has managed to serve the region’s increasingly diverse interests.
At the same time, Bill’s newspaper consistently covers stories that cross city boundaries — watchdog journalism at the regional and state levels that emphasizes shared concerns and challenges. Bill also uses readers to help direct coverage. He has routinely conducted “evening with the editor” sessions throughout the area.
He uses the newspaper as a force for community service. In the 1980s, he joined with the Lake County sheriff and the region’s U.S. Attorney to form Partners for Prevention, an anti-drug alliance. He also helped found “Calumet Kids,” a child health screening program that reached thousands of children at area shopping malls.
He brought seniors together in the early 1990s to form “The Golden Times” and established editorial advisory boards to gain the insight of community residents in setting a coverage agenda for the newspaper. He also formed a “board of economists” made up of regional business leaders.
Working with publisher Bill Masterson Jr., Nangle in 2008 helped form the “One Region: One Vision” council, composed of leaders from three counties. The group has set five major goals to help unite the region and foster an improved quality of life, and the newspaper continues to monitor progress on those key issues.
In 2009 he led local health groups to form the Northwest Indiana Healthcare Advisory Board.
Indeed, it could be said that with his vision of a unified Northwest Indiana, manifested in hard-hitting journalism and countless hours of selfless community service, Bill has done more to bring the region together than any single political or social leader.
Bill’s service to journalism doesn’t stop at the Lake and Porter County borders. He has been a force for good journalism throughout Indiana. Since the 1960s, he has been an advocate for open government. In the 1980s he fought to open the records of county coroners.
But it was in 1998 that Bill’s passion for truth in government fully flowered. He brought together seven of the state’s largest papers for a project that would change the way Hoosier officials dealt with requests for information.
Bill’s idea was to have reporters test the openness of government in each of the state’s 92 counties, then present their findings in all seven newspapers on one dramatic Sunday morning.
The project provided powerful evidence that many public officials were failing to follow the state’s public access laws, some out of ignorance of the law, some out of outright defiance.
In response, the late Gov. Frank O’Bannon formed a blue-ribbon panel to investigate the situation and asked Bill to join it. O’Bannon also appointed a public access counselor to educate government officials on their obligations and the public’s rights under the state’s access laws and to serve as a resource to resolve disputes involving public access. Ultimately, the law itself was revised, and efforts to strengthen public access continue to this day, all set in motion by Bill’s idea and leadership on the groundbreaking project.
The State of Secrecy series became a national model for testing access to public records and has been replicated in 32 states.
As befits an industry leader, Bill is active in most of the major press groups. He has served as president of the state APME and is chairman of the press association’s freedom of information committee, and he was long involved with HSPA’s News Room Seminar and Rules committees.
Not surprisingly, Bill already has been honored many times.
In 2002, Gov. O’Bannon awarded Bill the Sagamore of the Wabash citation — Indiana’s highest honor. For his service to HSPA and dedication to opening government information to citizens, the state press association awarded him its 2008 Distinguished Service Award.
Bill was given the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce distinguished service award in 2009. He has also been cited by numerous community organizations over the years for community activities. He is a director of the Crisis Center of Gary, the Northwest Indiana Forum, the Indiana Debate Commission, the Northwest Indiana Chapter of the American Red Cross, the Northwest Indiana Quality of Life Council and the Legacy Foundation.
He serves on the strategic planning committee of the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission and was affiliated with the Calumet Area Hospice, the Gary Centennial Commission and Leadership Northwest Indiana. He is a former member of the Crown Point Rotary Club. He attends the First United Methodist Church of Crown Point.
“Anyone who knows Bill will tell you about his commitment to his community and to his readers,” Gov. Mitch Daniels wrote in a seconding letter to the Hall of Fame.
Nangle attended Wabash High School and Huntington College. He is married to the former Rita Fleener of Lowell. They have seven children and 15 grandchildren.
By Tim Harmon, managing editor, South Bend Tribune