Miami Herald

Death of Nancy Ancrum is profound loss to community


December 22 was Nancy Ancrum Day in MiamiDade County.

That proclamati­on, made official with a plaque from the county and a small ceremony, was bestowed in appreciati­on for her 40 years of work at the Miami Herald, the last 10 as editorial page editor, a job she dispatched with a lightness of spirit that belied the heaviness of her responsibi­lities.

The announceme­nt came during one of Nancy’s multiple retirement parties — she decided late last year that it was time to hand over the reins of the opinion section.

Nancy was surprised by the framed proclamati­on hand delivered by MiamiDade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. Those of us who served with Nancy on the Miami Herald Editorial Board weren’t. The honor was deserved.

Nancy led the editorial board the way she approached everything in life: with compassion, humor, humility, joy and an occasional dose of sternness. “I’m channeling my mother now,” she would laugh after she had to use a steely tone during a particular­ly difficult interview with a political candidate.

She died on Friday at age 67 after a long illness.

Leading an editorial board through tough decisions and controvers­ial election recommenda­tions is not for the faint of heart.

Nancy displayed the necessary mental toughness as required. When criticism was leveled or fury vented, she absorbed that without flinching, often bearing the brunt of it so others wouldn’t have to.

But it’s her joy we remember most. During our morning meetings, held virtually throughout the pandemic, we discussed South Florida’s issues with vigor, intensity — and a lot of laughter. Nancy was our boss but she was also our friend. She cared about her fellow board members and colleagues and understood that, in the midst of opining on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ latest proposal or dissecting the current scandal at Miami City Hall, we had lives outside of work. She had perspectiv­e, a valuable trait in a world where overheated rhetoric can feel all-consuming.

She fostered an environmen­t where members of the editorial board could express their opinions without fear or embarrassm­ent. Nancy lived up to the principles of journalism and of democracy, where the free exchange of ideas is paramount.

Journalist­s were her tribe, she liked to say, and that is how she approached each meeting with the editorial board, each conversati­on with a member of the community. She considered any meeting she attended a success if she was able to offer someone the opportunit­y to write an opinion piece.

She also kept common sense at the fore when making editorial decisions. She defended the positions of the editorial board even when they weren’t popular with some members of the community. When we changed our minds — as we did with some election recommenda­tions based on new informatio­n — she was forthcomin­g about it.

Nancy’s headline writing was among the sharpest in opinion journalism. She had a knack for helping her staff put thoughts into written words during discussion­s. She also authored powerful editorials. When footage of the 2021 Surfside building collapse was released, she wrote a piece that captured what many felt after such a tragedy, titled “Surfside condo-collapse video is haunting for what we didn’t see: the people inside.”

Nancy also gave us freedom to innovate. Under her leadership, the editorial board launched a podcast called “Woke

Wars” and won several awards. Among them is the Pulitzer Prize her successor, Amy Driscoll, won for editorial writing in 2023.

Her Miami Herald retirement party, just a little over three weeks ago, made her feel like “the belle of the ball,” she said. Storms had been on the horizon but when the evening dawned, the weather was fine. We toasted her and celebrated together, as a team.

Nancy remained a committed Miami Herald editor in spirit even after her official retirement. Her husband, George Fishman, a familiar face to the board in no small part because our morning meetings gave us a window into each other’s households, sent a message to the board on Saturday, after she passed away. Nancy, he said, had noticed a typo the night before in an editorial. We fixed it, of course, with profound thanks and gratitude.

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