Editor’s Notebook: Goodbye, Mike. There are no words.

April 27, 2023 4:55 am

As a writer and editor, Mike Pride spent a lifetime looking for the right words. (Getty Images)

Mike Pride, the longtime editor-in-chief of the Concord Monitor, passed away on Monday at 76. I encourage you to read the panoramic obituary written by Mark Travis, another longtime Monitor editor, as well as a thoughtful appreciation written by my States Newsroom colleague Clay Wirestone, of the Kansas Reflector.

Mike Pride
Mike Pride

Maybe it’s impossible to convey exactly what New Hampshire and the field of journalism lost this week, but the pieces by Clay and Mark are exceptional. Whether you knew Mike a little, a lot, or not at all, you will learn something valuable about him from the stories and testimonials, as I did. In fact, I think it’s fair to say I knew Mike in all of those ways: a little as a history buff, a lot as a journalist, and not at all as a person separate from language.

“Man is the creature who cannot escape from himself, who knows other people only in himself,” Marcel Proust wrote, “and when he asserts the contrary, he is lying.” The truth, then, is that I knew Mike almost entirely through our shared quest for the right words. 

More than anybody else in my professional life, Mike taught me the virtue of precision and accuracy in language. He allowed me to be human – to print my mistakes in his beloved newspaper – but he wanted to make sure I gained something from the errors and that I took responsibility for them. I lost countless hours of sleep worrying that the edition I had just sent to the press would not meet Mike’s high standards; it was fear not of the person but of hearing, from an unimpeachable judge, what I already felt in my gut: that I had not done my job well enough.

His voice echoes still – encouragement wrapped in hard truth – and I’m grateful even in low moments when I want nothing more than to swat it away.

It would be a disservice to Mike, however, to limit his passion for language to journalism alone. Poetry, according to Alan Watts, is the art of saying what can’t be said – and Mike was fully dedicated to the impossible craft. Take a few minutes to read his remembrance of the poet Charlie Simic, his longtime friend, and note how he consistently and deftly cedes the stage to his subject: “One poem Charlie read that night seemed emblematic of his work. It showed his lighter side, his absurdist bent, the range of his imagination, and his signature touch of darkness. Although he rejected the notion of joining any of the myriad poetic movements of his day, people often asked him if he considered himself a confessional poet. Charlie’s self-portrait in ‘My Turn to Confess’ answered this question once and for all.”

A writer is fully formed when their goal is to disappear in the words rather than gain notice through them. That is the art of getting out of the way, and it is where Mike excelled as a writer and editor.

As an interviewer, Mike’s questions were often every bit as revelatory as the answers given. Here’s one he asked Ken Burns in 2021 about his Muhammad Ali documentary: “For decades, boxing provided an arena where the history of race in America played out. Jack London wrote about how Jim Jeffries had to stop Jack Johnson, Richard Wright went to Harlem to gauge public reaction to Joe Louis beating Max Schmeling, James Baldwin dissected the character differences between Sonny Liston and Floyd Patterson – why did the lights above the ring also light up the nation’s racial issues?”

We have Burns’ answer, but as I reread the piece I wish we had Mike’s.

In many ways – in most ways – I consider myself an accidental journalist. Had I gotten my start under any editor other than Mike, I suspect I would have calculated my career in months rather than decades. 

He gave me a reason to stay at the Monitor, and on the few occasions that didn’t work he gave me a reason to return: the search for the right words.

He found them often, through great but graceful effort, until time withdrew. 

What a beautiful way to spend a life.

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Dana Wormald
Dana Wormald

Dana Wormald, a lifelong resident of New Hampshire, has been a newspaper editor for more than 25 years. He began his career on the Concord Monitor’s news desk in 1995 and later spent more than a decade at the New Hampshire Union Leader. In 2014, he returned to the Monitor to serve as opinion editor, a position he held until being named editor of the Bulletin. Email: [email protected]