J. Michael Myer, longtime executive editor of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register, dies at 69
WHEELING — J. Michael Myer, longtime executive editor of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register, died Wednesday at Wheeling Hospital. He was 69.
Myer served as executive editor of both publications for the past 23 years. Prior to that, he was editor of the Wheeling News-Register, a position he assumed in 1991.
His 46-year newspaper career included stints as a reporter, weekly newspaper publisher and editor and then editor and executive editor of the daily newspapers. Myer was well-known throughout West Virginia and Ohio for his insightful editorials and columns that focused on local and state issues.
His colleagues and others in the community also knew him as a family man who loved the Ohio Valley, particularly his native Wetzel County. He had a passion for the great outdoors, often spending vacations camping with his wife, children and grandchildren in the Shenandoah Valley. He championed many social causes from education to feeding the hungry. Myer gave his time and talents to countless causes without wanting any attention paid to his actions.
G. Ogden Nutting, publisher of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register, said Myer will be best remembered for being a newspaperman.
“For me, he was a close friend, a valued and respected source of good advice and counsel based on sound judgment, values and common sense, and also someone with a good sense of humor,” Nutting said.
“Mike’s love for his family and pride in what his wife Connie and his daughters, Christina and Jessica, accomplished was sincere, great, and obvious,” Nutting added. “The shortest editorial ever written certainly applied to him: ‘A family loved, a community and state served, a life well lived.'”
Along with his wife and daughters, Myer also is survived by his two grandchildren.
Myer also left a lasting impact on Perry Nardo, general manager of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register.
“Mike was a dedicated journalist who understood the importance of his profession and how his words impacted the lives of so many people,” Nardo said. “He took his role as a community leader very seriously, was above reproach, and he committed himself each day to providing our readers a balanced account of the news. His impact on my professional and personal development cannot be measured and his unique wit will be missed.”
Myer’s presence also will be missed by John McCabe, editor of the newspapers. McCabe said Myer served as a mentor to him over their 20-plus year working relationship, and helped him to grow and fully understand the role of a community newspaper editor.
“Mike was a newspaperman’s newspaperman, offering a common-sense, grounded and measured approach to how we covered the events taking place each day,” McCabe said. “He also was my friend, closest confidant, a great sounding board on any issue that came up and a constant check on my sometimes rash decisions. I will greatly miss our daily chats on issues ranging from local and state politics, to our families, and to how we live life here in West Virginia. I have nothing but the utmost respect for how Mike did his job each day and how he led his life.”
McCabe also recalled Myer’s deep love for West Virginia, a love he shared with his family and friends and, sometimes, on the pages of the newspapers.
“To say that Mike enjoyed the outdoors would be an understatement; he absolutely adored the outdoors,” McCabe said. “He always appreciated when he had the opportunity to visit areas such as Canaan Valley or the Smoke Hole region on work assignments, and then come back and share his observations in a column. He also kept an old atlas in his desk that he often would pull out during our chats, pointing to various points of interest or a cave he had explored in his youth in that region. He was a West Virginian through and through, and this state and region has lost a true gem of a human being.”
Nutting added, “In his 46-year career, Mike had various titles: reporter, city editor, publisher, editor and executive editor. Today, he would probably be known as a journalist, but the designation he would have preferred most was simply newspaperman. Yes, a good newspaperman, a very good newspaperman. … I will miss him.”
Community leaders added their thoughts Wednesday on Myer’s passing.
Along with family, newspapering and the outdoors, Myer’s greatest passion may have been vintage raceboats — or anything fast, for that matter. That passion came early in life during the New Martinsville Regatta, and then was rekindled in recent years with the Wheeling Vintage Raceboat Regatta held at Heritage Port, where he could be found each summer taking photographs and running a few laps on the water.
Debbie Joseph, co-founder of the Wheeling Vintage Raceboat Regatta who also worked with Myer as members of the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center’s board in Wheeling, said she and her husband, Dr. Dan Joseph, were extremely saddened to learn of Myer’s passing.
“Mike was a devoted member of the Easter Seals Board of Directors and a longtime member of the Wheeling Vintage Raceboat Regatta committee, and he was deeply committed to both organizations. Mike could always be counted on as a journalist and editor to present the news daily and was a champion at recognizing those who do great things in our community,” Debbie Joseph said.
“He was not afraid to address difficult issues and stand up for what he believed was right, and was a huge public supporter of social distancing and mask use over the last year during the pandemic. His loss is simply immeasurable to the Ohio Valley. Our prayers are with his family at this incredibly heart-breaking time.”
Easter Seals CEO Jay Prager added, “Easter Seals is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of board member Mike Myer. Mike was an integral part of our board of directors for more than two decades, and his dedication to the children of the Ohio Valley is unsurpassed. He leaves large shoes to fill. We extend our sincere condolences to Mike’s family, friends, and the community at large.”
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin late Wednesday recalled Myer as “a person of the utmost integrity.”
“Over the years, we had lively debates about politics and the best direction for West Virginia. Mike was always able to look for the common ground and the best way to move forward for the sake of our state and country,” Manchin said. “I appreciate his insight and friendship more than he knew. I will miss him a great deal. Gayle and I are praying for his family and friends as they mourn this tremendous loss.”
G. Randoph “Randy” Worls, chairman emeritus of The Oglebay Foundation, said he had known Myer for decades and respected his work as a journalist.
“He was open and fair to everybody. He took his job seriously and did not try to overdo or push any issue. He was always a strong supporter of the park which we appreciated,” Worls said.
Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger said, “I was very shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden passing of Mr. Myer. Since returning home, I always enjoyed reading his editorials and early on during my tenure here at the Wheeling Police, I actually did something I rarely ever do. I contacted him to pass on my appreciation of the quality and compassion of one of his editorials. This particular editorial was spot on, like most of his were. He was always open to communication and represented the newspaper very well. Mike will be sorely missed.”
The Rev. Darrell Cummings, pastor of Bethlehem Apostolic Temple and a regular columnist in the Sunday News-Register, expressed shock and dismay over Myer’s passing. Thirty years ago when Cummings was a new pastor in town, he approached Myer about writing a monthly column for the newspaper, and that column has been a regular part of the paper ever since.
“I noticed there weren’t any local African-American writers in the paper and asked for a meeting with Mike,” Cummings said. “I remember that meeting. He stood up, a tall, impressive man. I came to know him as a superhero without a cape. We sat and talked and Mike agreed we should highlight all sides and gave me the opportunity to write a column. Because of his wisdom and kindness, he took in a stranger and created a 30-year friendship. I could not have done what I’ve done without him. He was an angel who stood by my side. Wheeling has lost a patriot. Mike Myer was so special.”
Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott also expressed condolences on Myer’s passing.
“I was shaken by the news of Mr. Myer’s passing,” Elliott said. “He was a proud journalist whose no-nonsense words and opinions are sewn into the very fabric of this community. As someone who occasionally found himself in Mr. Myer’s editorial crosshairs, I can say without any doubt that he has made me a better public servant. He embodied the seemingly forgotten notion that we can disagree without being disagreeable, and I will miss his daily contributions to our public discourse.”
Former Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie described Myer as “a giant in the industry.”
“He was a rock, a man of great integrity. He was a genuine, genuine person. He was the person from whom you knew what you were going to get. He was transparent. His editorials … they always were written with integrity. He will truly be missed in our valley.”
Mary Rohrig, a longtime friend and colleague of Myer from his days in Wetzel County, recalled his commitment to his work and how he always thought of others.
“I worked with Mike for more than 25 years and continued to keep in touch since my retirement in 2005. Mike was an ‘old-school’ journalist — he was a student of the late Adam Kelly (as I was) and believed in reporting the truth fairly and accurately. Good grammar was a must; honesty not just the best policy but the only policy,” she said.
Mike cared about people. He always took time to listen to anyone who expectedly – or unexpectedly – popped into his office. Mike was a teacher to young journalists learning the trade he cherished. He was loyal to his co-workers, who quickly became his friends, and was deeply in love with and proud of his wife, two daughters, and grandchildren. And perhaps most importantly, he was a man of faith.”
Myer is survived by his wife, two daughters and two grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending.