Norman E. Isaacs · 1983

Norman Isaacs began his journalism career sooner than most.

At the age of 11, he got his first typewriter and began to publish a neighborhood newspaper. Only two issues were published before the young Isaacs was distracted by other pursuits.
It didn’t take long for him to return to the field.

By high school, Isaacs was living in Indianapolis and going to Manual High School. He soon outgrew writing for his high school paper and began stringing for The Star, The News, and The Times.
Isaacs soon went to work for The Star’s sports department, making $12 a week. He did well at The Star, but soon moved to an assistant sports editor position at The Times.

At The Times, Isaacs learned from fellow sportswriter Eddie Ash. A hard-nosed perfectionist that refused to accept any gifts from the teams he wrote about, Ash taught Isaacs the importance of accuracy.

Isaacs soon moved to the news side of the paper, and, after a variety of beats, became news editor. After a period of rotating management at The Times, he was promoted to Managing Editor at the age of 27.

As ME, Isaacs made a name for himself and the paper by predicting the 1937 flood, creating a popular column called “Inside Indianapolis” (that was later copied by competing papers), and by doing a series of stories on the poor state of state institutions such as prisons, reformatories and mental hospitals.

He also became involved in the Indianapolis community, sitting on many boards and committees.
Isaacs eventually moved on to his third Indianapolis paper, The News, as Editorial Director. He worked there until 1945, when the owner, Richard Fairbanks, died. Finding it difficult to answer to the host of Fairbanks’ family members that inherited ownership in the paper, Isaacs accepted an ME position at The St. Louis Star-Times.

He began to make connections in St. Louis, but Issacs’ stay at The Star-Times was cut short when the publisher decided to close the paper in 1951.

After a few months, Isaacs was hired by The Louisville Times. He built that paper up to be a significant counterpart to The Courier-Journal, and then became executive editor of both papers. Soon he was Executive Vice-President of the corporation.

As he had in Indianapolis, Isaacs became involved in the Louisville community. He also took advantage of being on the Indiana border and remained involved in Indiana, speaking often at Indiana University.

The government asked Isaacs, as a member of the press, to visit India. His connections led to several other international trips to Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union and China.

In 1970, Isaacs left Louisville to teach at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. He was later chosen as an Associate Dean.

In 1982, Isaacs was offered a professorship at the School of Communications at Stanford University, and he was soon asked to visit the East-West Center in Hawaii to restructure its Jefferson Fellowship program.

Isaacs was 74 years old at the completion of that project.

From his first journalistic attempts at the age of 11, Isaacs has certainly come a long way and has contributed much to the field of journalism.


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