(CourierPress.com) EVANSVILLE — George Spohr, executive editor of the Courier & Press, died of cancer Thursday night. He was 37.
Spohr was also regional editor for Gannett’s Indiana newspapers outside of Indianapolis, leading journalism efforts in Lafayette, Richmond, Muncie and Evansville, as well as at The Gleaner in Henderson, Kentucky.
He moved to Evansville in October 2017. Spohr was previously the executive editor of the Journal & Courier in Lafayette.
Although he was a New York state native, Spohr came to love Indiana, especially Evansville. From the moment he moved to Evansville, Spohr often spoke about how at home he felt.
“It was a joy to work with George, even if it was just for a short time. His respect and deep care for others was his finest quality. I loved that he came to love Evansville as much as he did. To see someone move here and absolutely treasure the area and what it had to offer was touching to me as a lifelong resident,” said Ryan Reynolds, Courier & Press sports director.
In one of his final email messages to Courier & Press staff, he wrote: “More than any place I’ve lived as I’ve hop-scotched the country with my career, Evansville feels like home.”
An avid hiker, Spohr loved Indiana’s natural resources and often wrote about them in his columns. He loved Lincoln State Park and its firetower and enjoyed New Harmony State Park’s trails.
He also enjoyed one of Indiana’s other strengths: Good food, especially the Italian restaurants and pizza parlors in every town where he went for work.
“I can’t emphasize enough how much he loved being in Evansville,” said Jeff Taylor, managing editor at USA TODAY and former executive editor of the Indianapolis Star. “He told me time and time again how he loved being in Evansville. He really felt like he was in a great place and at a great moment in his career.”
Taylor hired Spohr to lead the Lafayette newspaper.
“I knew he was a really smart editor who was passionate about the work we do and how we connect to the community,” Taylor said.
He recalled attending a community gathering not long after Spohr came to Lafayette during which local officials spoke about Spohr as if they had known him for years.
“He believed very much about not just being the watchdog of our community but in making a difference in the community,” Taylor said.
Ronnie Ramos, the Indianapolis Star’s executive editor, worked closely with Spohr from the moment he arrived in Indiana.
“As good of an editor and journalist as George was, he was an even better person. He really cared about people and the staff he worked with,” Ramos said.
He said Spohr understood both the urgency of journalism and getting the news out and the importance of good storytelling.
“He was just very good at getting people to tell the best possible story in the moment,” Ramos said.
Spohr was known for finding his staff’s hidden skills and encouraging their professional growth, as well as his ability to organize and fine tune newsroom operations.
Carol Bangert, executive editor at the Journal & Courier in Lafayette, recalled how Spohr mentored her:
“George had a gift of empowering people, and was encouraging and supportive. But he also had to make some tough decisions, ones that upset both readers and staff members. I think he was always fair and never made those decisions lightly. George got things done, and it always seemed effortless to me,” Bangert said. “I think the two things I will remember most about George are his booming laugh, and that, as a transplanted New Yorker, he sincerely embraced Indiana. He called it home.”
Courier & Press news director Abbey Doyle said Spohr had the ability to see the best in everyone.
“George was able to see things in people they may not have even seen in themselves,” Doyle said. “He was an incredible leader and an even better man. The way we will honor George is by continuing to carry out his vision. I will miss him.”
Spohr came to Evansville with nearly 20 years of journalism experience. He started his career as a reporter, covering local news and business, before becoming an editor.
He earned his first senior leadership role in 2011 as the executive editor at The World on Oregon’s South Coast. He then moved to The Sentinel outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Both papers are owned by Lee Enterprises. He had a degree in journalism and business management form Utica College of Syracuse University.
In 2013, Spohr became the executive editor of the Times Leader Media Group, which comprised several publications serving the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metropolitan area.
He is survived by his parents, George Spohr Sr. and Linda Spohr, a sister, Kristen, and two nephews, all in the Utica, New York, area.
Story from our media partner the Courier & Press
(This story was originally published July 20, 2018)