Harrison Ullmann: Indiana’s Dean of Alt Journalism

NUVO's Tribute Issue to be Published Later This Week.

The man the Indianapolis Star calls “the dean of alternative journalism in Indiana” is dead at age 64. Harrison J. Ullmann, Editor Emeritus and Senior Staff Writer of NUVO Newsweekly, died of cancer on Saturday, April 15. “He was a lone wolf,” said NUVO Publisher/Editor Kevin McKinney. “He understood that power corrupts. He knew that he was a force because of his memory, and because of his craft, he was able to protect people. I would consider him the consummate alternative newsweekly editor.”

Diagnosed with cancer in February, Ullmann was “a very healthy and vigorous person up until about two months ago,” says McKinney. “We were being told that radiation would work very well, but it turned out that it was very aggressive cancer, and went to his lung and spine and killed him within a matter of weeks. We weren’t really prepared.”

Ullmann began writing a weekly column for NUVO in late 1990, and was Editor from 1992 until 1999. During his tenure as Editor, circulation grew from 20,000 to 55,000. He was a 45-year veteran of Indianapolis journalism — including nearly ten years at the Indianapolis Star — who gained notoriety for ardent advocacy reporting about issues from animal rights to Indianapolis’ arts community to dogging former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, a pro-privatization Republican. However, McKinney says Ullmann “was not party affiliated or ideologically affiliated. His writing was based on what journalism should be: fairness and truth.”

McKinney also says that Ullmann was often “recognized as the best writer in Indianapolis. He was a master of his craft; I’d put him at the top of anybody in the alternative press. It’s a great loss to our industry, and a great loss to our city.”

McKinney, who took over as Editor in November 1999 when Ullmann transitioned to Senior Writer, says that Ullmann left behind a very stable editorial team. On average, NUVO editorial staffers have been with the paper for five years.

The day before his death, Ullmann received from Governor Frank O’Bannon the highest honor in the state of Indiana: the Sagamore of the Wabash. Later this week, NUVO will publish a special 16-page tribute issue.

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