Alan M. Horton · 2003
By Jonna Kane MacDougall
Alan Horton began his newspaper career while a student at North Central High School in Indianapolis. During the summer months of his high school and college years, he worked for the Noblesville Ledger, The Indianapolis Times and The Shelbyville News. Horton, who will turn 60 on May 31, currently serves as senior vice president/newspapers for the E.W. Scripps Company. The company motto, “Give light and the people will find their own way,” has guided his 38-year career in professional journalism.
He has been a prize-winning reporter, editor, publisher and Washington correspondent. He also was among the first to make forays into the world of electronic publishing in the mid-1980s as general manager of Scripps and Knight Ridder joint venture in Pittsburgh.
Upon graduation from Yale in 1965, he joined the Cincinnati Post to begin an association with Scripps that would last, with one brief intermission, for 33 years. In late 1966, he moved to the Cleveland Press, where he covered a major race riot as well as the second Dr. Sam Shepard murder trial and the 1968 presidential campaign. In 1970, he was named Washington correspondent for Scripps’ three major Ohio papers in Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland. He became a national correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service in 1972, covering the Pentagon and national security issues. In the spring of 1973, he was in the Philippines for the return of American prisoners of war from Vietnam. Later he met and interviewed many of the former POW’s including a navy commander named John McCain. In 1976, following a series of stories that uncovered the use of military intelligence funds to influence Congress with junkets, gifts and entertainment, we was awarded the Raymond Clapper Award for investigative reporting.
He left Scripps in 1978 to return to Indiana to become the editor of The Shelbyville News. It was awarded the Hoosier State Press Association’s “Blue Ribbon,” as the top daily newspaper in 1979. His columns were also awarded the Inland Daily Press Association’s Sweepstakes Award. Of his five years at the News, Horton said (quoted from correspondence related to his nomination to the North Central High School Hall of Fame) “I’ve never had so much fun. We exposed scams, yes – even pyramid schemes involving city and county officials, and a huge real estate investment swindle. But, we also helped save a railroad; raised money for tornado victims; found a solution that got a new hospital built; aided the community in attracting hundreds of new jobs; helped the community in revitalizing the downtown area [and] spotlighted the need for better schools… what makes me prouder about my five Shelbyville years was the community service our team accomplished as a group. The Blue Ribbon was a nice surprise.
It wasn’t long, however, before other challenges called. In 1983, he returned to Scripps as managing editor of The Evansville Press. The following year he was appointed general manager of a joint venture between Scripps and Knight Ridder in Pittsburgh – Viewtron – which provided local and national information to readers electronically via personal computer. Though short-lived, the experiment paved the way for future explorers into electronic information delivery.
In 1986, Horton was named publisher of the Southern California Company, a group of 24 Scripps-owned weekly and semi weekly newspapers in Los Angeles and Orange counties in California. By late 1987, Scripps moved Horton to Naples, FL as editor of the Naples Daily News. In 1990, the American Society of Newspaper Editors named the Daily News one of the nation’s top 10 newspapers with circulation of less than 50,000. The following year, Horton returned to Cincinnati to become the vice president for newspaper operations with Scripps, being promoted to his current position in 1994.
Horton is a member of the boards of the Newspaper Association of America (NAA), the American Press Institute and the Foundation for American Communications. He also is a past chairman of the American Society of Newspaper Editors Ethics Committee. He is chairman of the NAA’s Board Committee on Industry Development with the principal mission of horizon watching for threats to and opportunities for the newspaper industry.
He reports that during his career he has worked for five members of the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame: Jim Neal, in Noblesville, IN; John C DePrez, who hired him as a summer intern and later as editor of The Shelbyville News; Earl Richert and Dan Thomasson, who were his bosses at the Scripps Howard News Service in Washington, and Bill Burleigh, chairman of E.W. Scripps Company.
As a senior in high school, in 1961, Horton received the Triangle Club Award. It was presented in recognition not only of scholarship, but of service and leadership as well – qualities that characterize his many contributions to the field of journalism. As he described in his own words, “I believe my life has been devoted to public service because ‘the press’ rightly has been labeled ‘the fourth estate.’ All of us at Scripps take very seriously this thing we call ‘giving light.'”