Frank Daniels, former PA president and newspaper publisher, dies

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Former Associated Press board chairman Frank A. Daniels Jr., who guided The News & Observer of Raleigh through an era of political and economic transformation in the New South, died Thursday at age 90.

Daniels, whose family owned the North Carolina newspaper for more than a century before it was sold to McClatchy Newspapers Inc. in 1995, died in a Raleigh retirement community where he lived, according to his son, Frank Daniels III. The son said his father died after a month of declining health.

In its 26 years as publisher of the state’s premier newspaper for politics and government, The N&O has become a regional powerhouse for news, particularly from the growing Research Triangle region of the State. state, and an online pioneer. Likewise, his tenure as chairman of the board of directors of AP in the mid-1990s was marked by the technological expansion of the nonprofit press cooperative.

Daniels’ family business embraced technology in the newspaper industry, developing one of the World Wide Web’s first newspapers, The NandO Times – a play on the News & Observer name designed to differentiate it from the print product – in 1994 and Nando.net, a commercial Internet service provider.

Daniels joined AP’s board of directors in 1983 and served as chairman from 1992 to 1997. During his leadership, AP focused on expanding its multimedia presence, launching a video news agency and the development of “The Wire”, an effort to combine audio and video news with text and photos.

Daniels “was an early and enthusiastic supporter of AP’s entry into video, a major step for the news cooperative which in subsequent years proved to be the right decision when we made it”, Louis D. Boccardi, president and CEO of AP from 1985 to 2003, said in a recent email.

Daniels retired as N&O editor in early 1997, months after the paper won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for its series on the environmental and health risks associated with handling pork waste generated by the growing industry of hog production in North Carolina. The newspaper won two more Pulitzers while it was publisher, including a commentary award for editor Claude Sitton in 1983.

Daniels and Sitton – known for his previous civil rights reporting for The New York Times – defended the paper’s stubborn investigative coverage. They were known to lock horns consistently with arch-conservative Republican U.S. Senator Jesse Helms on the paper’s Democratic-leaning editorial pages and wore the conservatives’ nickname for the paper – “The Raleigh Nuisance and Disturber” – as a badge of honor. .

Originally from Raleigh, Frank Arthur Daniels Jr. was 14 when he started working for the newspaper bought at an auction in 1894 by his grandfather.

Josephus Daniels, later Secretary of the Navy and Ambassador to Mexico, used the paper to promote white supremacy among North Carolina Democrats around 1900. But by the next generation of family leaders, The News & Observer had become a mainstay of civil rights and racial equality, a commitment that continued under the leadership of Josephus Daniels’ grandson.

“Frank Jr. was the preeminent modernizer of The News & Observer,” said Ferrel Guillory, who worked at the newspaper for more than 20 years as a political reporter, editor and columnist. “He viewed newspapers as a catalyst for economic, social, and civic engagement and betterment.”

Owen Youngman, professor emeritus of journalism at Northwestern University specializing in digital media, praised Daniels’ role as a pioneer in internet publishing, particularly for sports content.

“Nando.net and the Nando Times simply dominated online sports in the early days,” Youngman, who also worked for decades at the Chicago Tribune, said in an email. “ESPN and USA Today didn’t go online until 1995, for example, and Yahoo was trying to rank the web, not publish news. Frank had the vision to understand that geography was irrelevant…Nando could create an audience anywhere, and he did.

Tall with a deep-voiced Southern drawl, Daniels graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill. After a stint in the Air Force that took him to Japan, he joined his family’s newspaper full-time in 1956.

Her father, Frank Daniels Sr., was the general manager and her uncle was the editor. Daniels learned all facets of the newspaper industry, selling advertising and serving as acting director of circulation, he said in a 2002 interview on the Oral History Project conducted by the ‘A C. But he largely stayed away from reporting and writing.

“I was a terrible typist, and you have to be able to type to write a story,” Daniels said in a 2017 interview with PBS North Carolina. “I loved selling, I loved being around people. I loved producing… It felt natural to me.

Daniels was elevated to president and publisher in 1971 when his father’s health failed. His son, Frank Daniels III, also rose through the ranks in the family business, eventually becoming editor, leading the newspaper’s Internet efforts.

It came as a surprise to many when the Daniels family agreed to sell the newspaper and six local non-daily newspapers to McClatchy in a deal worth $373 million that allowed him to remain publisher.

“You want to be in a position where if you decide to sell something, you can sell it on your terms,” ​​Daniels Jr. said when announcing the sale.

McClatchy’s management said at the time that the Raleigh newspaper was attractive, in part because it would make the company less dependent on the economy of California, where most of its newspapers were located. McClatchy had also previously purchased South Carolina newspapers owned by The News and Observer Publishing Co.

After the sale, Daniels became part of a small investment group that bought The Pilot of Southern Pines, about 70 miles southwest of Raleigh. The group’s holdings expanded over time to include Business North Carolina and several other magazines.

Daniels was also past president of the American Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation and the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association. The Hussman School of Journalism and Media at his alma mater, UNC, announced in 2020 that family members were establishing a new executive-in-residence program named after him.

Daniels “built a legacy of truth, education, democracy and courageous journalism across the state of North Carolina,” UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said at the time, adding that the program would “prepare the next generation of media leaders”. .”

While serving as PA President, Daniels and Boccardi traveled abroad several times to meet with the media and world leaders, including newly elected President Nelson Mandela during a visit to South Africa in 1995.

“It was a pleasure to work with Frank Daniels,” said Boccardi. “He combined a very sharp entrepreneurial spirit, a relaxed management style, a hearty laugh and an insatiable curiosity about everything.”

In addition to his son, survivors include his wife of 68 years, Julia Jones Daniels, their daughter, Julia Graham Daniels; three grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; two step-grandchildren and four step-great-grandchildren.