Thomas A. Riordan, a longtime editor and publisher of weekly newspapers in the Midwest and a contributor to Editor & Publisher magazine, died July 6 of congestive heart failure in Bradenton, Fla. He was 89.
Riordan, a native of Detroit, was born Oct. 23, 1921, to Bernard J. and Sarah (VanDervoort) Riordan. During college, he served as sports editor of The State News, Michigan State University’s campus daily. He was a member of Sigma Delta Chi, a national journalism fraternity now known as the Society of Professional Journalists.
His academic studies were interrupted in 1943 for active duty, serving as a communications sergeant in the 45th Infantry Division during the liberation of Europe. When the war ended, he returned to MSU to complete his degree and served as editor of The State News in 1947.
After graduating from MSU’s School of Journalism in 1947, he was an assistant editor of the Detroit Edison employee magazine. He was the owner, editor and publisher of the weekly Greenwich (Ohio) Enterprise-Review (1950-1956) before being named general manager of the Marysville (Mich.) Printing Co., which published three weeklies.
In 1957, Riordan and James Lincoln purchased The Tecumseh (Mich.) Herald, which won many Michigan Press Association awards in the following years. In 1967, Riordan sold his share of The Herald to Lincoln and became an assistant professor of journalism at Hillsdale (Mich.) College. He was named photo editor of the Jackson (Mich.) Citizen Patriot the following year and shortly thereafter was promoted to managing editor. In 1977, he left the Citizen Patriot to form TARCO, a newsroom management consulting firm. He then became executive editor of the Observer & Eccentric Newspapers in 1979.
During his career, Riordan received numerous journalism awards, including the MSU Alumni Service Award, and he was inducted into The State News Alumni Association Hall of Fame Class of 2008. Riordan also was a popular discussion leader at the American Press Institute in Reston, Va.
Upon retirement in 1981, he and his wife, Marilyn, traveled from coast to coast for 15 years, interviewing nearly 75 weekly editors in 44 states. Riordan wrote profiles of these weekly editors for Editor & Publisher magazine and Publishers’ Auxiliary, and later compiled dozens of the articles into a book called, “Our Paper: Lessons in Newspapering from America’s Weekly Editors.”
He is survived by his wife Marilyn Irwin; five children, Carol Ann Riordan of Reston, Va.; Bernard Riordan of Parma, Mich.; William Irwin and Jan McCann of Sarasota, Fla.; and Nancy Rodgers of St. Petersburg, Fla.; a sister, Mary Louise O’Neil of Prescott, Ariz.; 10 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Cherie Eberhardt Riordan, who died in 1976; his parents; a brother, Robert Riordan; and a son, E. Thomas Irwin.
Family members, friends and colleagues are welcome to make donations to the Michigan Press Association Foundation Scholarship. Simply write the check to MPA FOUNDATION and on the memo line of the check write TOM RIORDAN, and send it to: 827 N. Washington Ave., Lansing, MI 48906-5199.
A memorial service will be held Aug. 20 in Bradenton, Fla.
Carol and family, Many prayers are with you and your family. Mr. Riordan was a blessing to many and left an amazing legacy through this work and family.
Thank you Mr. Riordan and family