By: E&P Staff
William J. Oertel, a retired executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association who fought for the rights of reporters and residents to know about their government, died today in New Mexico.
He was 94.
At a time when laws didn’t guarantee people access to records of government meetings, Oertel had a goal to make Ohio the most open state in the nation, friends and colleagues said yesterday.
He was born in Syracuse, N.Y., graduated from Syracuse University in 1939 and came to Columbus in 1948 to become assistant executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association
Oertel was the group’s executive director from 1954 until his retirement in 1981. During that time, Ohio adopted a range of laws requiring government to operate openly. The state also upheld reporters’ rights to protect their sources and extended free-speech rights that allowed doctors and pharmacists to advertise their services.
Oertel also helped create the Ohio Newspapers Foundation, which provides scholarships to aspiring journalists and supports Newspaper in Education programs.
With newspaper publishers, he helped start what’s known today as AdOhio, a subsidiary that helps place advertisements in newspapers and on newspaper websites.
The Ohio Governor’s Awards, a longtime tradition that honors the achievements of Ohio natives and residents, also was his brainchild. Oertel himself received the award in 1979.
Oertel is survived by his daughter. His wife, Jay, passed away in 2006. His son, W. Jack Oertel, passed away in 1990.