NEW YORK — Nancy Woodhull, a founding editor of USA Today and a former president of Gannett News Service, died Tuesday. She was 52.
Woodhull, also a major spokeswoman for women's and journalists' rights, died at her home in Rochester, N.Y., after a four-month struggle with lung cancer.
From 1990 until early last year, she was a trustee of the Freedom Forum, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that focuses on 1st Amendment and media-related issues. A former director of the Freedom Forum's Media Studies Center in New York, she was recently named senior vice president for communications at the Freedom Forum, which is based in Arlington, Va.
A leader among women journalists, Woodhull had served as president of the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls and was a founding co-chairwoman, with Betty Friedan, of Women, Men and Media, a national group that monitors how women are covered in the media.
"Women around the country really notice when the press doesn't report their existence," she told The Times in 1992. "It's like walking into a room where nobody knows you're there. If you have choices, you don't go into that room anymore."
Charles Overby, president and CEO of the Freedom Forum who knew Woodhull for 20 years, said: "Nancy was a trailblazer. She made it easier for journalists from all walks of life to succeed. She was one of the first women to break through the glass ceiling by coming up through the ranks.
"Once she got through the glass ceiling, she tried to fix it so other people from all walks of life--people of color and diverse backgrounds--could go through the system, and she really dedicated her life trying to help aspiring journalists."
Woodhull, who attended Rutgers University, began her career at the News Tribune in Woodbridge, N.J., and in 1973 joined the Detroit Free Press as a reporter.
She later became a managing editor of the Gannett newspapers in Rochester, the Times-Union and the Democrat and Chronicle.
She also was a founding editor of USA Today and was the paper's managing editor when it debuted in 1982, as well as a former president of Gannett News Service and Gannett New Media.
After leaving Gannett in 1990, she was an executive of Southern Progress, a division of Time Warner that owns a number of magazines, and had a consulting company. For the past four years she had been scholar in residence at the University of Rochester.
Woodhull is survived by her husband, journalist William Watson, and her daughter, Tennessee Jane Watson.