Ex-editor at Gazette Steve Szkotak dies 

  • FILE- This June 14, 2012, file photo shows Associated Press staff writer Steve Szkotak in Richmond, Va. Szkotak who was 65 died from cancer at his home in Richmond. The Syracuse native worked as an editor and reporter at the AP for 14 years, covering the environment and a host of other issues. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

Published: 6/1/2016 3:49:31 AM

Steve Szkotak, a former Daily Hampshire Gazette editor who went on to work for the Associated Press in Virginia, died Tuesday of esophageal cancer. He was 65.

Mandy Szkotak said her husband died Tuesday afternoon at his home in Richmond, Virginia, with family at his side.

The Syracuse native had worked as an editor and reporter at the AP for 14 years, covering the environment and a host of other issues.

Steve McMillan, the AP’s news editor for the Richmond bureau, said Szkotak was “a gifted storyteller who elevated the level of journalism here in Virginia.”

Szkotak joined the Gazette at the start of the 1990s as Amherst editor and worked out of the Northampton office for a decade as one of the newspaper’s most influential and respected leaders.

Larry Parnass, the Gazette’s editor, said Szkotak embodied a wire editor’s devotion to breaking news. Before joining the Gazette, he worked for United Press International in Boston and Rhode Island, where he covered the celebrity trial of Claus von Bulow.

“Steve lived and breathed news,” Parnass said. “When he arrived at work, coffee in hand, he combed through the competition and dispatched his reporters with military precision. Steve trained a generation of reporters about the duty they hold in this line of work to inform the public.”

“He never hesitated to jump in with his own reporting when the need arose,” Parnass said.

In one memorable feature story, Szkotak chronicled his commute to work on one of his family’s horses.

Parnass said that while Szkotak loved to explore the ideas behind public issues, he remained close to his working-class roots and had an unparalleled ability to sniff out a phony.

“Steve wasn’t free with his praise, so when he had good things to say about a reporter’s copy, they knew he really meant it.”

Another longtime colleague at the Gazette, Stanley W. Moulton, now the night managing editor, said he recalled Szkotak’s zest for breaking news stories and his eye for details. “He was a stickler for demanding specifics to enrich stories,” Moulton said. 

Max Hartshorne of South Deerfield, publisher of the travel website gonomad.com, called Szkotak “an excellent reporter and a man who lived a great life.”

“He had many friends and colleagues in the Valley, and he never took his eye off the scene here, even though he lived in Richmond for 13 years,” Hartshorne said. “He always wanted to hear the local stories, get the local gossip. Steve was a fan of the details, and demanded such in my emails. Once he said that my recent message was ‘thin gruel.’ I liked how he insisted on more news in my emails. Nobody does that, except him.”

While working at the Gazette, Szkotak and his family – wife Mandy, daughter Molly and son Fred – lived in rural Chester.

Szkotak served as a board member the Miniature Theatre, now the Chester Theatre Co., and was a close friend of the company’s founder, the late Vincent Dowling.

In his final weeks, after undergoing treatment at Johns Hopkins Medical Center, Szkotak was able to walk his daughter Molly down the aisle at her wedding this spring, knowing he had little time left.

Material from the AP was included in this story.




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