John Foreman: 'The quintessential newspaperman'

John Foreman: 'The quintessential newspaperman'

CHAMPAIGN — Prize-winning reporter, editor and publisher John Foreman died Saturday at age 65.

“John embodied all the qualities of the quintessential newspaperman. His keen news judgment, outstanding writing and editing abilities, and passion for the truth were the engines that drove the newsroom to be consistently recognized as among the best in the state,” said News-Gazette Media CEO John Reed, who in 2014 succeeded Mr. Foreman as publisher of The News-Gazette.

A past chairman of the Illinois First Amendment Center, Mr. Foreman served as president of the Illinois Press Association and the Illinois Associated Press Editors. He was a former chairman of the Mid-America Press Institute and a Society of Professional Journalists project on access to government called “Project Sunshine.”

The editor emeritus of The News-Gazette was the first recipient of the James C. Craven Award for Freedom of the Press from the Illinois Press Association, and only the second recipient of the Illinois AP Editors Lincoln League of Journalists award.

In 2006, he was named Illinois Journalist of the Year by the faculty at Northern Illinois University. 

A collector of fountain pens and advocate of cursive writing, Mr. Foreman was at a pen collectors’ meeting in St. Louis when he passed away.

Recovering from a stroke in March, he seemed re-energized when he visited The News-Gazette newsroom just two days prior to his death.

Mr. Foreman graduated from Atwood-Hammond High School in 1970, marrying Sharon Koeberlein in 1972.

“He worked himself up from the bottom of the ladder at The News-Gazette, starting as a part-time reporter on weekends and eventually become the newspaper’s publisher,” said a close friend, News-Gazette columnist Jim Dey. “His rise was based solely on merit. His commitment to quality journalism was total.”

Mr. Foreman graduated from the University of Illinois in 1977, and immediately joined the staff as a reporter. Four years later, he was named night city editor, then city editor. He became managing editor in 1985, and editor-in-chief the next year.

He was promoted to publisher in 2003.

On being named employee of the year, Mr. Foreman was cited for “maintaining the difficult balance between meaningful, aggressive journalism and good community relations.”

News-Gazette columnist Tom Kacich said of Mr. Foreman: “He fights for The News-Gazette and Champaign County because he passionately believes in preserving the legacy and wishes of the (founding) Stevick family in the importance of an informed public served by a free press and in serving the people of Champaign County, who are his neighbors and his customers.”

One of the few News-Gazette employees to precede the publisher at The News-Gazette is veteran sportswriter Loren Tate.

“John Foreman was a giant in our business, not only because of the brilliant, incisive column that he wrote, but because of his ability to lead The News-Gazette through choppy waters in his years as publisher,” Tate said.

“He was particularly instructive on local issues. But those at the newspaper recognized him as trustworthy in making critical decisions for the benefit of all.

“For me, he was a close friend who repeatedly gave me excellent advice. I respected John Foreman as much as any man in the community.”

On Saturday, Reed recalled a conversation he had with the local journalism icon upon being named Mr. Foreman’s successor three-and-a-half years ago.

“I told John that I would do my best to replace him but would never be able to fill his shoes,” Reed said. “Those words remain true today.

“Coincidentally, it was exactly 10 years ago today that I began working for John. In the ensuing decade, I had the privilege of working with an industry great who was equal parts mentor and friend. It’s a sad day for anyone who knew John, whether personally or through his many columns over the years. He will be sorely missed.”

Mr. Foreman loved journalism, saying in an interview last summer upon being named editor emeritus: “I had several jobs — mostly bad — before becoming a latecomer to journalism.

“I thought it would offer a good foundation for studying law,” he added. “But I couldn’t really afford to go to law school, and once I got a taste of newspapers in my mouth, I never looked back. I just loved everything about it, loved it all — the challenge, the mission, the spirit, the people. But I think I mostly loved the action. When you’re at a newspaper, you’re in the middle of everything.”

Dey said Mr. Foreman was the spirit of the newspaper.

“People like to criticize their hometown newspapers. But any reasonable person comparing The News-Gazette to other newspapers in similarly-sized communities can see that their newspaper is head and shoulders above most, if not all, of the rest,” Dey said. “That’s testimony to John’s constant emphasis on doing our best.

“He was a natural leader who made it a pleasure for those of us in the newsroom and the rest of the paper to follow.”

Morgan Memorial Home in Savoy will be in charge of arrangements.

Sections (2):News, Local