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Former Times Executive Editor William "Bill" Nangle died Friday.

For nearly 45 years, Nangle, 70, helped lead The Times to become not only the dominant player in the Northwest Indiana media market, but also in molding the future of Northwest Indiana.

"Bill was an absolutely outstanding editor and news executive. He pioneered targeting local news in the diverse Northwest Indiana region," said Mary Junck, chairman, CEO and president of Lee Enterprises, parent company of The Times.

"He believed deeply in watchdog journalism, and he and his staff kept a keen eye on local officials and institutions. Over the years, he mentored hundreds of upcoming journalists and help them grow in their careers," she said.

"He also had a savvy sense of the business of newspapering and was a very significant contributor to the success of The Times of Northwest Indiana. He will be missed by his friends in Northwest Indiana and his many colleagues and friends across Lee," Junck said.

Kevin Mowbray, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Lee Enterprises and former publisher of the Times of Northwest Indiana, described Nangle as "a wonderful editor and a very major contributor to the Northwest Indiana region. He was a tireless advocate for the betterment of the communities and was instrumental in helping the Region grow.

"As publisher of The Times, I had the joy of working directly with Bill and saw firsthand his significant leadership and collaboration skills. He was a key leader of the One Region, One Voice initiative, which brought Northwest Indiana together around common goals," he said.

"Bill was all about building bridges and uniting the Region for a better future. He was a wonderful colleague and friend," Mowbray said.

John M. Humenik, Lee's vice president/news, also president and publisher of the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, worked for Bill in Northwest Indiana from 1986 to 1994, starting as a sports reporter and last as assistant managing editor.

“While many comments about Bill’s leadership as one of America’s great editors will be said, a full telling must include how deeply caring and 'father-like' he was to those he mentored," Humenik said. "We entrusted our early careers to his good guidance and continue to this day quoting his philosophies, concepts, and wisdom to those we lead. Bill and his life’s work will remain a powerful influence for decades to come.”

More than a newspaperman

"It's hard to imagine Northwest Indiana without Bill Nangle. He lived his life serving the Region — both as a newspaperman and as a community leader," said Chris White, publisher of The Times Media Co.

"Bill was a very special person who touched all our lives deeply, in ways big and small. It is an honor to have worked with, and learned from, Bill. I will be forever in his debt," White said.

"I'm so grateful that I got to know Bill during the transition and learn of his many contributions to the Region," said Bob Heisse, editor of The Times Media Co.

"He loved and worked tirelessly for The Times, journalism and Northwest Indiana. He will be missed. We wish the best to Rita and his family."

"NWI has lost a gentle man, a visionary and a leader," U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., said. "Bill dedicated his life to journalism and guarding the public with his pen. I lost a friend and he will be missed. I offer my deepest sympathy to his wife, Rita, his children and his family."

Gov. Mike Pence said in the passing of Bill Nangle, "Indiana has lost a legendary journalist whose courage and integrity contributed to the public's right to know throughout his 45-year career. While our opinions sometimes diverged on public issues, I always knew Bill to be tough and fair, the epitome of a true journalist. Our deepest condolences to Rita, his entire family, former colleagues and friends on the passing of this good man."

Steve Key, executive director of the Hoosier State Press Association, described Nangle as a giant of Indiana journalism.

"Under his newsroom leadership, The Times was honored by the Hoosier State Press Association multiple times with the Blue Ribbon Award as the best daily newspaper in Indiana.

"An Indiana Journalism Hall of Famer, Bill also was a member and leader of HSPA's Freedom of Information Committee. That committee advises HSPA on issues concerning the public's right to know what its government is doing. Bill also was a genuinely good man and I feel fortunate to have known and worked with him over the last two decades," Key said.

"Bill was a unique person. He was a man of great passion and conviction. He championed the region and built coalitions that will continue to work on creating the NWI that he and we all want to build. His legacy will continue because he was about creating a cause and not a cult of personality," Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority President and CEO Bill Hanna said.

"On a personal note, Bill was a man who reached out to me often just when I needed encouragement," Hanna said. "He was never too impressed with himself but at the same time he understood that he had the respect and authority to push for positive progress. In short, he was a friend, a mentor and a true region champion. I will sorely miss him."

Tried-and-true journalist

"It's a sad day for those of us who worked for and with Bill, and our hearts go out to Rita and their family," former Times managing editor Paul Mullaney said. "I can't comprehend how many journalists would count Bill as their mentor. He was a tried-and-true journalist who wasn't afraid to ruffle feathers in pursuit of presenting the truth to the reader. He was at the forefront fighting for freedom of information and the public's right to know.

"He loved his family, loved his profession, loved The Times, loved solid local news reporting, loved to come to work, loved to celebrate good work," Bishop Noll Institute President Mullaney said. "And he worked diligently to improve Northwest Indiana, which he quickly came to love as home even though he wasn't raised here.

"Bill was a Hall of Famer in the industry, and remained committed to the core tenets of journalism during an era of great change that made it tempting for many to cut corners simply to be the first to break a story. Bill wouldn't cut corners. And all of us who worked with Bill are better off for it," Mullaney said.

Don Babcock, director of economic development at NIPSCO, said "the passing of Bill Nangle is a tremendous loss for Northwest Indiana. He was a true champion of the Region and a mentor to leaders young and old. I always admired his toughness, sincerity and drive. He was an unrelenting, untiring force and I am proud and honored to have been his friend."

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said she was saddened to hear of the passing of Nangle.

"Not only was he a media giant in Northwest Indiana, but he was an advocate for economic development and progress in the entire Region. He championed and challenged each community and all of us collectively," Freeman-Wilson said.

Former Times publisher Bill Masterson said Nangle was the best editor he ever worked with and an even better friend.

"The newspaper world in Northwest Indiana has lost a great friend," he said.

Thomas McDermott Sr., former Hammond mayor and former Northwest Indiana Forum executive director, said he and Nangle have been friends since 1971. "We sort of grew up together, rising through the ranks."

Speros Batistatos, president and CEO of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, called Nangle "a great man, great servant to the community. It's a great loss to Northwest Indiana."

Indiana Journalism Hall of Famer

Nangle received numerous awards and accolades over the years, including his induction into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame in 2011. He was the first Times journalist be to inducted, joining honorees that include Ernie Pyle, Jane Pauley, Frank Reynolds and Eugene C. Pulliam.

He gained national fame in the industry following his leadership in persuading Indiana's seven largest newspapers to cooperate on The State of Secrecy project, which audited all 92 Indiana counties for compliance with state open records laws in the late 1990s. Following that investigative project, Indiana Gov. Frank O'Bannon appointed a public access counselor to advise the public and government officials on compliance with the state's public access laws. The landmark project was soon copied in more than 30 states.

Nangle persuaded state lawmakers and then-Gov. Evan Bayh in the 1980s to draft a law opening county coroner records to the public, following a court ruling that closed those records.

Nangle left his mark throughout Region

Nangle was active throughout Northwest Indiana as well, including his role in helping then-Publisher Bill Masterson Jr. form in 2008 what is now the One Region organization, an umbrella group that helps unite a three-county region that had been characterized by differing priorities. The Times' involvement in this regional unification effort earned The Times a 2013 Community Leadership award from the Inland Press Association.

In October, Edgewater Behavioral Health Services awarded Nangle its Commonwealth Award for Personal and Professional Leadership. In 2013, One Region honored Nangle with a lifetime achievement award. 

In 2009, the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce gave him its distinguished service award. The Hoosier State Press Association gave Nangle the 2008 Distinguished Award. In 2002, Gov. Frank O'Bannon named Nangle a Sagamore of the Wabash, Indiana's top honor.

Nangle served on the board of directors for the Crisis Center, the Northwest Indiana Forum, the Legacy Foundation and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Foundation, among many other activities. He was also chairman of the Hoosier State Press Association's Freedom of Information Committee.

In the 1980s, he joined with northern Indiana's U.S. Attorney and the Lake County sheriff to form Partners for Prevention, an anti-drug alliance.

He formed The Golden Times in the early 1990s to bring senior citizens together.

Nangle established editorial advisory boards to gain insights from community leaders and formed a board of economists to gain insights into the many sectors of the region's economy.

What has been referred to as the “Munster Model” for newspapers stemmed from Nangle's work in creating zoned editions that tailored news for smaller areas. At one time The Times had 10 zoned editions.

As the newspaper industry has evolved, Nangle kept ahead of the curve, leading the newsroom through numerous reinventions.

From correspondent to executive editor

Nangle's journalism career began in 1964, as a community news correspondent in his hometown of Wabash, Ind., sending news to the Marion Leader-Tribune (now Chronicle-Tribune). When the newspaper opened a branch office in Wabash in 1965, Nangle became its bureau chief.

He became state news editor with the Kokomo, Ind., Morning Times in 1966. He also served as news editor. He covered the Indiana General Assembly and local news interests from the nation's capital.

He became managing editor of the Franklin, Ind., Evening Star in 1967 and turned the newspaper into a suburban daily newspaper for Johnson County.

In 1969, he became managing editor of the Bristol, Va., Herald-Courier.

In 1970, Nangle joined The Times as assistant city editor. He became manager of the Southlake Bureau in 1974, managing editor in 1982 and executive editor in 1984. He became editor emeritus upon his retirement in 2014.

During his years at The Times, Nangle guided the newspaper through many major changes.

In 1970, just as Nangle joined The Times as assistant city editor, the paper changed its name from The Hammond Times to The Times of Northwest Indiana.

In the late 1980s, The Times became one of the first newspapers in the nation to shift to page layouts designed on a computer rather than with wax, sharp knives and paper.

In 1990, The Times moved from Hammond, with its letterpress printing method, to Munster, with a new headquarters that housed the new offset press. The newspaper also shifted from afternoon publication to morning.

In 1994, The Times opened an office in Crown Point across from the Lake County Government Center and began launching new editions for a heavily zoned newspaper.

In 1995, The Times acquired The Vidette-Messenger in Valparaiso, expanding its readership into Porter County.

In 1996, Nangle helped launch the first online edition of The Times.

Today, The Times offers an electronic replica edition as well as the website, several mobile apps — and, of course, the print edition.

Nangle is survived by his wife, Rita, and his children: Shane A. Byers (Tammy); William A. Nangle; Daren A. Byers (Debbie); Scott D. Nangle; Jason E. Byers (Maribel); Aaron P. Nangle (Vicki); Chrischelle Schmidt (Ed Thompson); 14 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Visitation is from 2 to 7 p.m. Monday at First United Methodist Church, 352 S. Main St., Crown Point. Services follow at 7 p.m. at the church.

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Senior Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.