Hudson-Catskill Newspapers publisher Roger F. Coleman dies

Roger F. Coleman, publisher of Hudson-Catskill Newspapers, died suddenly of an apparent heart attack on Monday, New Year's Eve in Kentucky. He was 61.

The Hudson-Catskill Newspapers company publishes the Daily Mail in Catskill and the Register-Star in Hudson, as well as a handful of local weekly papers on both sides of the Hudson River: The Mountain Eagle, Windham Journal, Chatham Courier, Ravena News-Herald and Greene County News.

Local blogger Sam Pratt, who writes from Hudson and has often been a sharp critic of the Register-Star's local coverage there, was the first to break the news on December 31. Pratt wrote:

While this site has tangled with Coleman over various issues over the years, this news comes as a very sad shock. Sincere condolences go out to the Coleman family and Reg-Star staff.

Soon after, the news was confirmed on the Register-Star's website. On Wednesday, the newspaper ran an obituary for Coleman, which appears to have been written by the funeral home handling Coleman's final arrangements rather than by the newsroom.

Coleman, who started out as a paper route driver at the News-Tribune in LaSalle, Illinois, had a long career in newspapers. Before taking the reins at Hudson-Catskill Newspapers, he was publisher of several other newspapers, including the Ashland Independent in Kentucky. In an article about Coleman's death, the Herald-Dispatch, a newspaper in Huntington, West Virginia, spoke to the editor of the Independent about Coleman's tenure there:

One of the biggest changes made during Coleman's time as publisher came in 2003, when he made the decision to change the newspaper to a morning delivery paper after having been an afternoon paper for more than 100 years.

"A lot of changes were implemented during his time there," said Mark Maynard, editor of The Independent. "I give him credit for his boldness. I have a lot of respect for him."

The name of the paper was also changed during this time, from The Daily Independent to The Independent.

"I thought he did a good job in the short time he was there," Maynard said. "He was a good publisher. The people who worked for him liked him a lot."

According to the Register-Star, a celebration of Coleman's life is being planned in the local area.

Update, 1/3: Hudson-Catskill Newspapers published a lengthy tribute to Coleman in today's papers, with statements from many of his former colleagues and associates. Here's Diane Kennedy, president of the New York News Publishers Association, remembering Coleman:

“He was wise, he had a great sense of humor, he was a great all around person,” she said, “and a terrific newspaperman who understood what newspapers were all about and how important it was for a newspaper to reflect the community it was in.

“I’m still in shock,” Kennedy said. “Every publisher I’ve talked to is heartbroken. People like Roger don’t come along too often. He was a rare person who understood how important it was for newspapers to stick together and share ideas, for the association to function as a united front, that we continue to have a free press, and how much responsibility came with that, too.”