Jack Fuller, who was a Justice Department lawyer, a novelist and a musician but who was best known as a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a top executive with the Chicago Tribune and a key architect of one of the largest newspaper acquisitions in history, died June 21 at his home in Chicago. He was 69.
The cause was cancer, according to the Tribune, which first reported his death.
Mr. Fuller began his career as a 16-year-old copy boy in Chicago, where his father was a longtime Tribune business reporter and editor.
After serving as a war correspondent in Vietnam and working as a Justice Department lawyer during the administration of President Gerald R. Ford, Mr. Fuller returned to the Tribune as a reporter and editorial page editor.
He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1986 for his editorials examining a variety of constitutional issues. Later, as the Tribune’s top editor and publisher, Mr. Fuller was considered a national leader in adapting news coverage to the changes brought about by the Internet and other technological changes.
“Jack Fuller was one of the best newspaper editors and publishers of his time,” Donald E. Graham, former publisher and chief executive of The Washington Post, said in an interview. “When Jack was running the Tribune, it was the best-run large newspaper in the United States.”
In 1997, Mr. Fuller was named president of Tribune Publishing. Within three years, he helped engineer the company’s purchase of the larger Times Mirror Co., which owned the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, Newsday and other newspapers. The $8 billion deal was the largest in the newspaper industry at the time.
Traveling to newsrooms across the country, Mr. Fuller assured journalists at the newly acquired papers that they would not be micromanaged from Chicago. In part, he was following the principles he outlined in his 1996 book “News Values: Ideas for an Information Age.”
“Newspapers grow out of the soil of the community,” he wrote. A paper should reflect its region and aspire “to have a distinctive voice that relates well to the community it serves.”
Not long after Tribune’s monumental purchase, however, a prolonged advertising slump began, and the Internet brought profound changes to how news was consumed. As the Tribune’s stock price plummeted, Mr. Fuller retired in 2004. (The company was sold in 2007 to real estate mogul Sam Zell and the next year went into bankruptcy.)
James O’Shea, a former top editor of the Los Angeles Times, wrote about the Tribune’s purchase of Times Mirror in his 2011 book, “The Deal From Hell.” He was critical of many Tribune managers but singled out Mr. Fuller as someone who “could embrace his critics” and who “had the ability to truly inspire people.”
Mr. Fuller was credited with promoting women to prominent jobs, including Ann Marie Lipinski, who became the Tribune’s metro editor and ultimately the first woman to lead the paper’s newsroom.
“For a journalist, he was somewhat unusual,” Lipinski said in an interview. “Jack communicated his values and his standards through his own work or through thoughtful conversations.”
Lipinski recalled walking with Mr. Fuller into a newly remodeled newsroom, where the First Amendment had been inscribed on the wall.
“Coming off the elevator, almost without missing a step,” she said, “Jack looked at the carving and said, ‘You’re missing a word.’ I think it was ‘of.’ It was classic Jack, showing the intellect and a sharp legal mind.”
Jack William Fuller was born Oct. 12, 1946, in Chicago. At Northwestern University, he became a top editor of the campus newspaper before receiving a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1968.
After one year of law school at Yale University, Mr. Fuller was drafted into the Army and went to Vietnam as a correspondent for the military newspaper Stars and Stripes.
He received his law degree in 1973 from Yale, where he was one of 11 members of a mock-trial group called the Barristers’ Union. In a photograph of the group, he is sitting next to Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Bill Clinton is directly behind him.
Mr. Fuller worked in Chicago as a Tribune reporter before coming to Washington in 1975 to work in the Justice Department under Attorney General Edward H. Levi, who had been president of the University of Chicago. In 1977, Mr. Fuller joined the Tribune’s Washington bureau before returning to write editorials.
(In 1992, when Mr. Fuller’s law school classmate Bill Clinton was the Democratic candidate for president, the Tribune endorsed Republican George H.W. Bush.)
Even as a law student, Mr. Fuller rose at 5 a.m. each day to work on a novel before going to class. He studied privately at Yale with novelist and poet Robert Penn Warren.
Among Mr. Fuller’s eight novels are a 1982 spy thriller, “Convergence”; “Fragments” (1984), set during the Vietnam War; “The Best of Jackson Payne” (2000), about a mysterious jazz musician; and “One From Without,” published this month, about a company during a corporate takeover.
Mr. Fuller was a board member of the University of Chicago and the MacArthur Foundation. In his free time, he played jazz piano at restaurants and clubs.
His first marriage, to the former Alyce Tuttle, ended in divorce. Survivors include his wife of 11 years, Debra Moskovits of Chicago; and two children from his first marriage.
For all his varied interests, Mr. Fuller considered himself a newspaperman above all else. People come to a newspaper “craving a unifying human presence,” he wrote in “News Values.”
“They want information that hangs together, makes sense, has some degree of order to it. They want knowledge rather than facts, perhaps even a little wisdom.”