Pete Miller III, president of Miller Group Media, died this morning. He was 50.
Unfortunately, if you looked for information about Miller’s death on the NewsTribune or Ottawa Delivered‘s websites tonight, you didn’t learn anything more than what I wrote in the first paragraph of this post — even though Miller Group Media owns the NewsTribune and Ottawa Delivered.
Since being laid off by The Times in November 2008, I have never been quick to praise the Ottawa daily newspaper. But tonight I commend it for being the only local newspaper with any significant information about Miller’s death posted on its website. I understand that Miller Group Media is probably wrestling with exactly how to deal with Miller’s death publicly — especially because of how he died — but I guarantee it is the talk of the Illinois Valley tonight, and the media group owes it to its readers to give them, minimally, a little more information than it has so far. (Can you imagine the Chicago Tribune and WGN withholding information about Sam Zell if he died? I can’t. And Miller Group Media arguably is the smaller-scale equivalent of the Chicago Tribune/WGN media group in the Princeton-Spring Valley-Peru-La Salle-Ottawa area because it also owns three radio stations and another newspaper.)
I have no doubt the NewsTribune will publish a wonderful, moving tribute to Miller in its print edition tomorrow. But that just shows the backward thinking of the people who actually run the NewsTribune. From what I was told when I worked at Ottawa Delivered, Miller was the main (perhaps only) reason Miller Group Media invested heavily in Ottawa Delivered, a startup newspaper and website that embraced a Web-first mentality. The approach seemed to work as a template for using social media in particular and the Internet in general to help grow readership for a community publication — at least before the editorial staff lost two reporters in January. Holding back news in the era of 24-hour news cycles and instant gratification just doesn’t make sense anymore, and newspapers that continue to do so will lose in the end.
With that said, I will remember Miller as a friendly, charitable man who genuinely cared for his community and gave back to it in many ways, mainly through sizable donations to places like Illinois Valley Animal Rescue and the Illinois Valley YMCA in Peru, and to various local charity events. Last year when I auctioned off my goatee to raise more funds for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation (after already getting my head buzzed for the cause), Pete was quick to come up with a $50 donation on the spot. When I thanked him afterward, he told me I was the brave one for losing my hair — and he meant it. That moment was a perfect example why no matter what you thought of Miller as a media mogul, you can’t deny the loss of his charitable soul.
Rest in peace, Pete.