Neil Brown inducted into Hall of Fame
Executive Editor and Vice President of the St. Petersburg Times Neil Brown (B.A. 1981) was inducted into the University of Iowa J-MC School Hall of Fame on April 16.
Under Brown’s leadership, the St. Petersburg Times has become the largest newspaper in Florida and been recognized among the nation’s best written and designed papers. In 2009, the Timeswas awarded two Pulitzer Prizes for feature writing, and for national reporting for its innovative fact-checking Web site, PolitiFact.
“Both prizes honored the power of independent journalism and recognized that even in the most difficult economic times, there is still a place and audience for important, high quality journalism,” Brown said.
A native of Chicago, Ill., Brown is a graduate of The University of Iowa, Phi Beta Kappa, with a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science. He began his career with the Miami Herald, where he spent eight years as an editor and reporter covering government and politics.
"I always knew I wanted to be an editor at some point," Brown said. "I made a comment to the city editor of the Herald about eventually wanting to be the person who chose what went on the front page and a few days later I was offered the job."
After his time with the Herald, Brown was invited to work in Washington, D.C., with the Congressional Quarterly, a magazine owned by the St. Petersburg Times.
"When you're working in government and politics, Washington, D.C., is a dream," Brown said.
Brown worked with the Quarterly for five years, the last four as the magazine's managing editor. He then moved to St. Petersburg and began his work at the Times, starting off in charge of the paper's national and international coverage.
Before becoming Executive Editor in 2004, Brown served nine years as the Times'managing editor.
“It’s a great honor to have that responsibility, but it also comes at an interesting and exciting time with extremely difficult economic circumstances combined with a technological revolution,” Brown said.
In 2008, Brown was elected to the Board of Directors of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and is past-president of the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. He served four years as a Pulitzer Prize nominating juror and is a member of the Professional Advisory Board of the J-MC School.
Throughout his eclectic career, Brown has had countless memorable moments, including coverage of a deadly plane crash, hurricanes, and race riots. However, he still feels that some of his most memorable jobs took place during his time at The Daily Iowan.
"The Times winning Pulitzers is among my most memorable career moments, but since the prizes, we have done a lot of investigative work on the Church of Scientology and there's been a lot of pressure put on us to stop," Brown said. "But at the DI I had the opportunity to cover the Iowa caucuses, President Bush and multiple candidates and Pope John Paul II as well."
After all of his success, Brown continues to think back and rely on many of the lessons he learned at Iowa. He feels that the "School of Journalism and The Daily Iowan in particular offered invaluable experiences" to him.
For J-MC students, Brown suggests to do things you aren’t used to—make yourself feel uncomfortable, and don’t be afraid to tell people that you don’t know something. He also recommends seeking out and finding coaches and mentors.
“I was helped tremendously by mentors in high school, at the UI by Bill Casey at the DI and even in my career, people have become great friends, mentors and coaches,” Brown said. “Find those people and spend time with them.”
“Don’t be afraid of change. Our values don’t change even as other things do. If you embrace change, it’s an exciting profession,” Brown said.