Former Sun-Sentinel Editor Gene Cryer, 80, Dies





Gene Cryer, the hard-boiled editor who took a little-respected publication and turned it into one of the fastest growing and admired newspapers in the county, died Saturday in Plantation.

He was 80 and died of a stroke complicated by pneumonia.

Cryer, came to Fort Lauderdale in June 1979 from Rockford, Ill., where he was executive editor of the Rockford Register-Star.


gene cryer

Gene Cryer


He quickly realized changes needed to be made.

The Fort Lauderdale News at the time was a sleepy daily that was well regarded by few.

One of the triggers, as I remember it, was when Miami erupted in riots that were sparked by the death of Arthur McDuffie in May, 1980. The paper did not initially cover the story with adequate resources. The chaos less than 30 miles from the paper’s newsroom was international news. Despite that, tradition kept the Fort Lauderdale News from initially covering the story with adequate resources.

Cryer was told that the long-established practice was to keep The Fort Lauderdale News largely confined to Broward County and not concern itself much with Miami news. It was like waving a red flag in front of him.

He fired editors. Reporters were given new assignments. Traditions were broken for good.

Within a few years, Cryer transformed the newspaper into a South Florida media powerhouse.

Under his direction, the newspaper dramatically expanded local news coverage. The paper customized and zoned editions for Palm Beach County, south Broward County and Fort Lauderdale, anchored by eight suburban inserts called “Plus”.

News bureaus were opened in Washington D.C., Atlanta and Miami. He established an investigative team, created Sunshine magazine, a TV Book, a weekly business section and special football sections.

With the improvements came numerous prizes — state and national awards for journalism. And a 1986 award for managerial excellence from the Tribune Company

He also managed the highly successful merger of the bigger afternoon Fort Lauderdale News into the morning Sun-Sentinel.

Cryer retired in 1994 after 38 years in journalism, 15 of them in Fort Lauderdale. He then authored books available on Amazon, worked with budding writers at various workshops and was an adjunct professor at Florida Atlantic University. He also was a long time narrator for Insight for the Blind and was a member of the Board of Directors of the non-profit investigative journalism website since its founding in 2009.

His love of horses continued to the end. He told me at his 80th Birthday party that he continued to groom and ride horses two or three times a week.

On a personal note Gene – he was on a first name basis to everybody in the newsroom – was an Old School newsman who truly believed that journalism was a public service and not a business.

He also was notorious among the staff for expressing himself in very loud terms.

I sat outside his glass office for many years and came in very early in the morning. Often Gene and I were almost the only people in the newsroom.

I would watch him through the glass. Every morning he would scan the paper from front to back, a pencil in his hand, marking what he didn’t like.

More than once, he came out of his office to grumble about some mistake in a paper, perhaps an error in a box score or a picture caption. I guess there was nobody else to complain to because his second-in-command Earl Maucker had not come to work yet.

As I sat silent, Gene’s voice would rise higher and higher. Finally I would have to cut in to remind him that I not responsible for the error. That I didn’t work in sports or write captions. He would mumble something like, “I know” and walk back into his office.

This experience taught me a vital lesson:  Gene cared about every word in the newspaper.

When I e-mailed some old colleagues about Gene this week, they were universally complimentary.

“Always a straight shooter and always decent,” said one.

“A thoroughly decent guy, something in short supply among Tribune managers,” wrote another.

“A terrific journalist. There are too few of those left,” e-mailed a third.

Perhaps the best thing I can say about Gene is that he cherished good journalism. He was cared about the stories and the readers.

Gene Cryer made me a better journalist by example. What more can I say?

Cryer at 80th Birthday

Gene Cryer blows out candles at his 80th birthday, September, 2015. 

5 Responses to “Former Sun-Sentinel Editor Gene Cryer, 80, Dies”

  1. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    In remembering Mr Cryer let us not forget HE DID IT ON HIS OWN. His father was blue collar n his mother a farner’s daughter. No easy fancy college no rich relatives no well-connected college roomate or in-laws.

    Today we get bored rich kids or minority of one kind or another hires too brilliant to be bothered with reading or hitting the pavement and knowing what they are writing or editing about. We have computer typists not reporters or editors AND NO JOURNALISTS OF YORE.

  2. Thanks Gene says:

    Thanks for the memories, and I do remember loving the paper. But alas the digital world is King, but twas time where reading the paper while laying in bed was sheer heaven.

  3. Remember When says:

    His tenure was the glory days of S-S. Guess they threw the mold away after Mr. Cryer.
    Moved to FLL in early 1980’s. Bought the newspaper in the roadside box every day (no sales tax!!) and never missed the NYT from my prior home (NY). Now I know why.
    My local ‘file’ with cut-out articles from those years (pre-internet) are very likely because of Mr. Cryer’s leadership, and reporters like you Mr. Nevins.
    Thank you and your legacy will live on Mr. Cryer.

  4. Stormwatch says:

    Buddy, that was beautifully written.

    Back in 1981, I was a teenager looking to break into the radio biz. I got a job interning in the newsroom at a local radio station where I worked for the next few years. The news director had 2 main sources for news. One was the AP wire and the other was the Ft. Lauderdale news / Sun-Sentinel. You guys did an amazing job back then. It’s sad to see what has become of our local newspapers, but at least we still have you.

  5. just saying says:

    @4 Stormwatch.
    Agreed. Well said.