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Former Herald-Mail publisher honored

December 10, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

Jim Schurz, a former editor and publisher of The Herald-Mail newspapers in Hagerstown, will be inducted into the Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Newspaper Hall of Fame in March.

Schurz, the sole 2004 inductee, will join 36 other newspeople in the Hall of Fame. Members include former publisher Katharine Graham and former editor Benjamin Bradlee of The Washington Post, and social commentator H.L. Mencken of Baltimore Sunpapers.

Under Schurz's leadership, The Herald-Mail earned a reputation of holding public institutions accountable, said John League, the current editor and publisher, who is MDDC's president-elect.

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He said Schurz, 70, fought for open court hearings in West Virginia and stood by the newsroom when advertisers boycotted the newspaper to protest stories they didn't like.

"In Hagerstown, Jim Schurz has created newspapers where journalists can practice their trade with integrity, with excellence and with honor, and with the reader coming first," League said. "In this business, that's about as good as it gets."

Schurz, who lives in Williamsport, will be the second Herald-Mail employee in the Hall of Fame. Charles Neill Baylor was inducted in 1974.

Schurz, an MDDC past president, worked at the San Francisco Examiner for 11 years before joining The Herald-Mail in 1968. He worked his way up to editor in 1972 and publisher in 1973.

He also served as a staff assistant to President Richard Nixon in 1972.

Schurz currently is a senior vice president and director of Schurz Communications Inc. in South Bend, Ind., the parent company of The Herald-Mail, Antietam Cable Television and other media companies. Schurz's family owns Schurz Communications.

"I'm very honored and a little disappointed in myself," Schurz said Tuesday. "I would rather not be in the spotlight."

Looking back on 40 years in journalism, Schurz said he loves being a part of newspapers, plain and simple.

When he started with the San Francisco Examiner, he grossed $60 a week.

Yet, "I was so happy," he said. "If I could have afforded it, I wouldn't have taken a paycheck."

Schurz said being a teacher and mentor - watching people learn, then excel - has made him proudest in his work.

"When you run a newspaper, I think the publisher is really insignificant if you have good folks working for you," he said. "If you stumble, they'll ignore you and do the right thing."

MDDC Hall of Fame Committee Chairman Jim Flood Sr., publisher of the Dover (Del.) Post Co., said Schurz unanimously was approved based on his "devotion to the role of a good newspaper and his support of a good staff."

MDDC President Jeff Mezzatesta, publisher of The Cecil Whig, said Schurz set a high standard with his "dedication to truth and fairness."

"The career of a man like Jim Schurz is exactly why community newspapers are so important," Mezzatesta said.

Schurz will be inducted March 12, 2004, during a luncheon at the Sheraton Columbia Hotel in Columbia, Md.

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