OMAHA, Neb. – Harold W. Andersen, the former publisher of Nebraska's largest daily newspaper and first American to be president of the International Federation of Newspaper Publishers, has died. He was 92.
Andersen died of natural causes late Thursday night at the Nebraska Medical Center, his wife, Marian, said Friday.
"He loved being a journalist," she said. "That's what drove him."
Andersen started his career as a reporter in 1945, and was publisher and chief executive of the Omaha World-Herald from 1966 until 1989. He also served high-profile roles for groups representing newspapers around the country and the world, including the American Newspaper Publishers Association and the World Press Freedom Committee. He also served on The Associated Press Board of Directors from 1980 to 1986.
"As I look back over those 61½ years of affiliation with the World-Herald, I recall gratefully the opportunity that my World-Herald position gave me to serve the cause of press freedom nationally and internationally," Andersen wrote in his final printed column in the World-Herald on Sept. 30, 2007.
Andersen and the World-Herald helped fund a legal challenge that resulted in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision for journalists in 1976, preventing a Nebraska district judge from imposing a gag order on journalists covering a preliminary hearing in a murder trial.
The district judge had said that pretrial publicity was "destroying our legal system," prompting Andersen to say the judge had "flipped his lid."
"The area of the legal system that can be affected by pretrial publicity is very narrow," Andersen said.
Andersen retired as publisher in 1989, but continued as a contributing editor, and his columns appeared in the newspaper until 2007. He continued writing columns online at HaroldAndersen.com.
Andersen was born in Omaha on July 30, 1923, the youngest of four children. His first job came via the Omaha World-Herald as a newspaper delivery boy when he was still in elementary school.
He graduated from North High School, where he was sports editor of the North Star newspaper, and won a $200 World-Herald scholarship, the World-Herald reported Friday. He attended the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, where he was editor of the student newspaper and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1945. For a year after graduation, he worked as a reporter for the Lincoln Star before being hired in 1946 by The World-Herald.
He married Marian Battey in 1952, and they had two children, David and Nancy.
"He was a great man," David Andersen, of Omaha, told the World-Herald. "He knew everybody, and everyone seemed to know him and like him. He treated people with respect. For my sister and me, he was a good dad and someone we respected utterly and looked up to."
Andersen is survived by his wife, two children and six grandchildren.