Remembering James Hoge: The Maverick Editor That Revolutionized Chicago Journalism

Remembering James Hoge: The Maverick Editor That Revolutionized Chicago JournalismSource: Council on Foreign Affairs
Richard M. Sullivan
Published on September 21, 2023

Former Sun-Times Editor James Hoge, who daringly revolutionized Chicago journalism and mentored a generation of young writers, passed away yesteday, at the age of 87. Hoge's remarkable career spanned over two decades and brought to light crucial investigations under his leadership according to the Chicago Sun-Times. His influence on journalism in the city remains a testament to his audacious approach and his commitment to the unyielding pursuit of truth.

Starting at the Sun-Times in 1959 as a night police reporter, Hoge’s journalism journey is nothing but inspiring. He quickly rose through the ranks, becoming publisher by the age of 44. While at the helm, he ushered in a golden age of journalism, helping the Sun-Times win six Pulitzer Prizes under his watch and supporting investigative projects such as the Mirage Tavern undercover sting.

A keen judge of talent, Hoge recruited a new generation of commentators, some right out of college, including renowned columnists Roger Ebert, Bob Greene, Roger Simon, Ellis Cose, and Ron Powers. With his support and encouragement, his fresh recruits went on to carve out the Sun-Times as the home for fearless investigative journalism. Powers became the first TV critic to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1973, and Ebert became the first movie critic to receive the honor in 1975.

Under Hoge's guidance, the Sun-Times tackled investigations that shook the community and ultimately led to changes in the city. One famous investigation was the expose of the city inspectors taking bribes and kickbacks involving the Mirage Tavern, coordinated by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Pam Zekman. The investigation resulted in the firings of city workers, dozens of indictments, and the reform of several government agencies. Reflecting on his time with Hoge, Zekman stated that he provided the necessary resources for long-term investigative projects and was instrumental in shaping her career.

Hoge's impact on Chicago journalism goes beyond investigations. He played a vital role in shaping the careers of many young reporters and writers, and he ensured the Sun-Times represented Chicago’s diverse population by aiding the introduction of women and people of color to the newsroom. Mary Dedinsky, who was hired as a cub reporter, went on to become an editor and the associate dean at Northwestern's journalism school.

His tenure at the Sun-Times and the Daily News included the merging of the two newsroom staffs in 1978. However, his time with the paper came to an end in 1984 when the Marshall Field family sold the Sun-Times to Rupert Murdoch. Although Hoge worked to buy the Sun-Times, he was outbid by the Australian media mogul and resigned from his position. Following his departure from the Sun-Times, Hoge later worked as publisher of the New York Daily News and served as chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board, and Human Rights Watch, among others.

Hoge's passing leaves behind a remarkable legacy, highlighting how his leadership and vision impacted the face of investigative journalism. His unwavering support for groundbreaking reporting and commitment to nurturing diverse writing talents has left an indelible mark on Chicago's press. As former Sun-Times reporter James Warren noted, Hoge was as comfortable in a gritty newsroom as he was at a Hamptons lawn party, and his passion for journalism transcended social status and backgrounds.