SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio Express-News Editor Mike Leary retired May 18, ending a 46-year career in journalism.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, who has led the newsroom since August 2012, said he is retiring to travel and spend more time with his five grandchildren.
Leary, 69, said he hopes to go to Antarctica, the only continent he hasn’t visited.
“One of the things I wanted to do, like my father, was be the editor of a newspaper, and I’ve certainly done that and had a great time,” Leary said. “I’ll really miss the staff and the camaraderie.”
Leary, whose father owned a weekly newspaper in a small town in Wisconsin, started his career at the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1972. He was a foreign correspondent for the newspaper in Europe during the collapse of communist regimes, and he was present at the fall of the Berlin Wall.
At the Inquirer, Leary directed and edited a series on school violence, “Assault on Learning,” which won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize gold medal for public service. The stories used print and video to detail pervasive student-against-student violence in Philadelphia schools, leading to safety reforms.
He was the Inquirer’s deputy managing editor of news and investigations when he left to join the Express-News later that year.
During his time at the Express-News, the newspaper published articles taking in-depth looks at abuse in the military, immigration and border security and San Antonio’s surging population growth. Leary also cited the newspaper’s watchdog journalism on public spending by entities such as the San Antonio Tricentennial Commission and Centro San Antonio.
“San Antonio is a city where our local stories are significant national and foreign stories quite often,” Leary said. “Even our 300th anniversary story is a big story because San Antonio is one of the most important cities in the country in terms of shaping who we are as Americans.”
The Express-News received numerous state and national journalism honors during Leary’s tenure, including the National Headliner Award this year and the Sigma Delta Chi Award last year for coverage of breaking news. The newspaper’s photographers were twice named finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, in 2018 and 2015, for work done the previous years.
Under Leary, the newspaper also created ExpressNews.com for subscribers, named the best website in 2017 and 2016 by the National Headliner Awards. It published books commemorating the newspaper’s 150th anniversary and describing major moments for the Spurs. Another book about San Antonio’s history is on the way.
“Newspapers are at an interesting and difficult transitional period. But I think the Express-News has really, in many ways, been on the cutting edge on what we need to do in the future,” Leary said. “The fundamental thing I was always interested in was the quality of the journalism, however we deliver it. That’s what I think people have to remember — that you can deliver things all sorts of ways, but high-quality journalism should not change.”
Express-News Publisher Susan Lynch Pape said Leary’s “commitment to quality and to really that daily focus on content that is important to the community is something that he has really enriched us with.”
A national and internal search will be carried out for a new editor-in-chief, Pape said.
Meanwhile, Managing Editor Jamie Stockwell will continue to run the day-to-day operations of the newsroom.