Ellen Soeteber, former editor of the Post-Dispatch, dies

ST. LOUIS – Veteran journalist Ellen Soeteber, the former editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, has died after a brief illness. She was 66.

Soeteber, who also spent two decades at the Chicago Tribune and was managing editor of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, was hospitalized two weeks ago near her home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for an infection that proved to be untreatable, her husband and novelist Richard Martins told the Post-Dispatch. She died Tuesday.

The Kassly Mortuary in Fairview Heights, Illinois, confirmed her death. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Soeteber grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois, and was a 1972 graduate of Northwestern University. After a brief time at Chicago Today, a now defunct afternoon newspaper, she spent 20 years at the Chicago Tribune, including a stint as associate managing editor.

She became managing editor of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in 1994, and oversaw coverage of the 2000 presidential election that hinged on the outcome in Florida. Soeteber took over as the sixth editor of the Post-Dispatch in January 2001. She was the first female editor of the newspaper founded by Joseph Pulitzer in 1878.

“The Post-Dispatch is not only the newspaper I grew up with, it’s also the newspaper that inspired me to become a journalist,” Soeteber said at the time.

Adam Goodman, deputy managing editor at the Post-Dispatch, worked with Soeteber. He said her “leadership, knowledge and intensity” demanded respect.

“She could be old-school tough, but unselfishly tutored many of us how to be smarter journalists and how to better cover and care about our community,” Goodman said in a statement.

Soeteber resigned in November 2005, citing financial considerations and other factors. Her resignation came days after the newspaper announced that 130 employees, including 40 people in the newsroom, had accepted early retirement offers from Lee Enterprises Inc., which purchased Pulitzer Inc. for $1.46 billion five months earlier. The Post-Dispatch was Pulitzer Inc.’s flagship newspaper.

Soeteber returned to live in Fort Lauderdale. She was active in journalism fellowship programs at the University of Missouri and the University of Michigan up to the time of her death.

In addition to her husband, Soeteber is survived by two sisters.