The publishing industry lost a trail-blazer and one of its true champions when former IndustryWeek editor-in-chief Stanley J. Modic passed away on April 11. One of the magazine's founding editors, Modic could muster up an intimidating demeanor when needed. But the staff writers and editors he supervised (and inspired) quickly came to realize that, beneath that sometimes-gruff exterior, Stan was a warm-hearted colleague -- a real-life version of TV's "Lou Grant."
On one occasion, he had no choice but to dismiss a non-productive staff editor. But, true to his nature, he did it compassionately. Afterward, the departing editor confided to another staffer: "You know, I think I like Stan even more now than I did before he fired me."
During a 42-year career in journalism, most of it in the business press, Modic often cajoled his management readers to come to grips with the waves of change buffeting their organizations. "In the business press," he once said, "you have a specialized audience. And your job is not only to inform them and educate them, but also to try to lead them -- and keep them tuned in to trends that may affect their businesses. You have to think ahead and lead your audience."
After a stint as city editor at the Painesville Telegraph, Modic joined Penton Publishing Co.'s Steel magazine in 1965, starting as an assistant editor. Four years later he was promoted to the position of executive editor. In that post, he was one of three editors who spearheaded the conversion of the magazine from Steel to IndustryWeek, a much broader publication that made its debut in 1970. IW covered the entire manufacturing sector and placed heavy emphasis on management-related topics.
In 1972, Modic succeeded the legendary Walter Campbell as editor of IW. One of his early initiatives was to assemble a group of leading thinkers -- including Peter Drucker and Alvin Toffler -- to advise the magazine and contribute insightful articles. In his columns, Stan prompted readers to more effectively motivate their employees, to speak up for the private enterprise system, and to respond to the challenge of stiffening global competition.
In the early 1970s, IW was one of the first U.S. publications to send an editor into China, shortly after President Nixon re-established relations with that country. And, in 1984, Stan visited China himself, taking along 20 of his executive readers on a study mission to explore potential joint ventures as well as the competitive challenge that China might (and eventually did) pose to American manufacturers. He also organized and led a series of executive study missions to Japan to investigate the secrets of that country's manufacturing success.
In 1974, long before the end of the Cold War, Modic accompanied IW's Washington bureau chief to Moscow to cover the first U.S. machine tool exhibition in the USSR. While there, he wrangled a meeting with the Russian minister of information. "The Russians had been using material from IndustryWeek without paying royalties," he recalled some years later. By the time the meeting was over, Stan had persuaded the minister that the Soviet Union ought to begin paying royalty fees to Penton Publishing. "It wasn't much," he said, "but we got a few rubles out of them."
In the early 1980s, Modic spearheaded an effort to stage a conference in Washington, D.C., sponsored jointly with the White House, on corporate social responsibility. His activist role also extended to the journalism profession. In 1977, he was a driving force in resurrecting the Press Club of Cleveland which had been dormant for most of a decade. He subsequently served as the first president of that group after its rebirth. He also served a term as president of the Cleveland chapter of Sigma Delta Chi -- now SPJ, the Society of Professional Journalists.
After nearly 25 years at Penton Publishing, Modic left in 1989 to join Huebcore Publishing as editor-in-chief of Tooling & Production magazine. He later served as vice president in charge of Adams Business Media's five-magazine manufacturing group.
Modic, whose editorial columns were widely quoted and reprinted, won numerous editorial achievement awards, including the prestigious G.D. Crain award, presented annually to an outstanding editor by the American Business Press.
Very active in Slovenian organizations, Stan was named "Slovenian Man of the Year" in 1998 by the Cleveland Federation of Slovenian Homes. He is survived by his wife, Poppy, and their two children, Mark and Laurel.
John Sheridan is a former senior editor with IndustryWeek, now retired. He worked with Stan Modic for many years.