Remembering Warren Watson, former SND president

Photo courtesy Charles Apple

From Marty Steffens, professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism:

Former SND President Warren Watson died May 27 at Maine Medical Center in Augusta, where he had been hospitalized since mid-December with complications of diabetes. The longtime journalist and
nonprofit executive was 67.

Watson was SND president in 2003 and later served as executive director of SABEW from 2009 to 2014 at its Phoenix headquarters at Arizona State University, where he also taught reporting. The organization had just moved to Phoenix and Warren had to hire new staff and reorganize the office. Watson saw the organization through difficult times in the journalism industry when recession-battered news organizations were loath to spend funds on training or conferences. Watson pushed through a model for SABEW conferences to be held at universities, and during those years SABEW hosted meetings at Southern Methodist University, ASU, and George Washington University.

After leaving SABEW, he was executive editor of the Alton (IL) Telegraph. He later moved to Columbia, Missouri, to reconnect with longtime friend Maggie Walter. He taught news reporting at the Missouri School of Journalism for one year before moving back to his beloved Maine in 2016. He was teaching journalism at a community college when he fell ill. Because semester grades were due, Watson marked papers in his hospital bed.

Born in New Hampshire in 1950, Watson relished his New England roots and was a lifelong fan of the New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox. A sports journalist early in his career, Watson loved just about any sporting event.

Watson often signed personal emails with W2 – W squared – a nod to his alliterative name. Few professional colleagues knew that there was a second WW – as Warren was a few minutes older than his twin brother Wayne, his only sibling.

Brian Steffens, who joined SND in 1980, knew Warren for 30-plus years. “I’d look forward to seeing Warren at every convention, even if – no, when – I’d lose at the annual card game among Warren, Dave Gray, Mike Keegan and a handful of past and future SND presidents, board members and committee chairs. Later I’d visit him in Phoenix when my wife, Marty, would make her annual visit as the SABEW Chair in Business Journalism. When he came to Missouri, he was a frequent companion for golf, dinner and Mizzou football,” Steffens said.

“This is a tragic loss for his family, friends and journalism.”

In his long career in journalism, Watson was director of J-Ideas for high school journalists at Ball State University and was a vice president of the American Press Institute in suburban Washington. He was editor of the Kennebec Journal and Central Maine Morning Sentinel, and managing editor for the Portland (ME) Press Herald. He served as SND president in 2003.

He was a 1973 graduate of the University of New Hampshire and earned a master’s degree from Ball State University in 2008.

He will be buried next to his parents in New Hampshire, a fitting end as Watson spent the last year of his life researching and writing “Claire and Charlie: An Unlikely Love Story,” published in fall 2017 by Hilltop30 Publishers. The story recalls his immigrant parents (Charlie born in England, and Claire in Canada) who met and married during World War II. A second book, “Surviving Journalism” – about how to “fireproof” a career in the news industry — will be published in September.

Services are pending. Besides his brother, he is survived by his former wife, Terri Watson, and sons Jamie and Sam.

About Stephen Komives

Previously served as Executive Director of the Society for News Design, from 2009–2019.


Warren was a great SND friend: an enthusiastic, smart, caring, and fun man. I have fond memories of him when he was president of our Society and at Reston, Va.,–American Press Institute. He led workshops on newsroom issues, management, leadership, marketing, and advertising. In 2001, he edited an API handbook called “Crisis Journalism, A Handbook for Media Response,” which was published in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. My sincere condolences to his family and friends.

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