Jonathan Marshall, the award-winning editor of the Scottsdale (Arizona) Progress and 1979 winner of SPJ’s National First Amendment Award, died Dec. 13 in his Paradise Valley, Ariz., home. He was 84.
Marshall edited and published the Progress from 1963 to 1987 as Scottsdale grew from a small town to a booming suburb. During that time, Marshall and the Progress were nominated twice for Pulitzer
Prizes, including recognition for the newspaper’s eight-year investigation into the murder of Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles.
In addition to publishing the Scottsdale Daily Progress, Marshall worked throughout his career for open government and freedom of the press. He wrote Arizona’s Open Meeting Law and the state’s Public Records Law. He was inducted into the Arizona Newspaper Hall of Fame in 1996 and won the Master Editor Publisher Award of the Arizona Newspapers Association and the Arizona Press Club’s Distinguished Service Award. Marshall served as president of the Arizona Newspapers Association, and chaired the newspaper association’s Freedom of Information Committee and its Legislative Committee.
In 1974 Marshall won Arizona’s Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, defeating two other candidates. He was defeated in the general election by incumbent Barry Goldwater.
Through the more than 12,000 editorials he wrote, Marshall advocated for protecting the environment, promoting the arts and helping children. He encouraged the development of parks in Scottsdale and the preservation of land throughout the Phoenix area. He founded and served as chairman of Arizonans for Children and was chairman of the first two Arizona Grandparents Day committees. Under his leadership, Arizona held the nation’s first Grandparents Day in 1972.
In 1972, Marshall was chairman of the Freedom of Information Committee of the National Newspapers Association. He served on Pulitzer Prize Juries in 1983 and 1984 and was a member of the editorial board of the Amicus Journal and the Bulletin of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. He also belonged to the National Conference of Editorial Writers.
Marshall was a member of SPJ since 1960.
Pedro Abigantus, past treasurer of the South Florida Chapter, died Jan. 14 at age 44. He had been a member of SPJ since 2002.
Abigantus was a lifelong journalist, having held positions in Illinois, Texas and Florida. He worked as a sports reporter for the Hollywood (Fla.) Sun-Tattler and editor at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Chicago Sun-Times. His last post was as community news editor at the Miami Herald, from which he retired early due to health issues.
Chapter president Julie Kay, who worked with Abigantus in Florida, broke the news of his passing on the chapter’s Web site.
“I am so sad and shocked to have to write these words – Pedro Abigantus has passed away,” she wrote.
A similar memoriam came from Bob Norman, who wrote about Abigantus’ passing on his blog for the Broward-Palm Beach New Times. In the blog’s comments section were numerous passionate responses from family, friends and co-workers who remembered Pedro as a warm, compassionate and evenhanded newsman. One commenter recalled: “I had the pleasure of working with Pedro and building something new at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Arlington newsroom … He was bright and compassionate. I will always remember his instant and firm response to a coach who did not want a ‘girl’ covering his school.”
Abigantus joined SPJ in 2002.
Lani Silver, a woman often described as a “passionate activist,” passed away Jan. 28. She was 60.
A freelance writer and producer, Silver got her education in political science and government, having obtained undergraduate and graduate degrees in both disciplines.
Silver used her background in politics and fused that with an interest in recording oral histories. She started the Bay Area Holocaust Oral History Project, which amassed interviews from 1,700 Holocaust survivors. Originally a one-person project while she taught at San Francisco State University, the stories grew and eventually necessitated a full staff, for which Silver acted as executive director.
In 2000, she became project director of a similar effort to obtain oral history about racism. The project was named for James L. Byrd Jr., who was dragged to death behind a pickup truck in 1998. Her efforts resulted in 2,500 recorded interviews on racism and its effects on society.
She joined SPJ in 2006.