Tobias Naegele, vice president and general manager of Defense News, announced Wednesday that he is leaving Gannett Government Media after more than 22 years. (Mike Morones/Staff)
Tobias Naegele, an award-winning editor who led Military Times and Defense News during two wars and spearheaded the newsroom’s entrance into the digital age, announced his resignation Wednesday.
Naegele, 52, spent more than 22 years with Gannett Government Media, formerly Army Times Publishing Co., where he groomed and mentored hundreds of journalists who covered the U.S. military and defense industry from the company’s headquarters in Springfield, Virginia. For reporters and editors alike, no story was truly complete until Naegele signed his initials, “TN,” on the page proof. He would find any weakness in a story and make sure what appeared in print was strong.
Naegele, vice president and general manager of Defense News, was not yet 30 years old when he joined the company as editor of Navy Times. He later was promoted to editor in chief of the entire newsroom. One of his proudest achievements for the company was launching Marine Corps Times, he said.
During his tenure as editor, Military Times revealed pay inequality issues that U.S. troops faced, resulting in record increases in service members’ compensation, Naegele said. Military Times also won awards for stories that exposed problems with body armor and uniforms; its coverage of education benefits helped lead to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and Military Times showed how troops were not receiving the same awards and decorations as service members from earlier wars.
“Those stories and others helped raise awareness of issues that needed to be fixed. And that's what great news outlets do for their communities,”he said.
He is also proud of the newsroom’s coverage of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and the ensuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, for which Gannett Government Media’s parent company named him editor of the year in 2004.
“When we invaded Iraq and the Pentagon set up an embedding system, we were able to lead and coordinate Gannett’s participation in that,” he said. “We had, I believe, 11 reporters, photographers and editors in theater. For a newsroom our size, that was about 10 percent. We were heavily forward deployed.”
Vago Muradian, editor of Defense News and host of the Sunday TV news program “Defense News with Vago Muradian,” has known Naegele since 1992 and worked for him for 12 years.
“He was a great boss — tough but fair — and I can speak for many when I say we’re going to miss him,” said Muradian. “He was a great newsroom leader who always pushed you to do your best — and brought it out of you.
“He knew how to grow talent. He would never, ever, let you slack and always kept you on your toes. He has a unique ability to spot mistakes or ask tough and valid questions that weren’t easily answered. It was essential to driving a top-notch newsroom.”
Mark Flinn, president of Gannett Government Media, said Naegele clearly had “earned the respect and admiration of many, both inside and outside the company. I know I speak for everyone in thanking Tobias for his years of dedicated service.”
Naegele, whose last day with the company will be Sept. 3, intends to return to his journalism roots, he said.
“I believe, more than ever, in the power of journalism — and the need for great journalism that makes a real difference in people’s lives,” he said. “There’s an enormous amount of journalism today that is repetition of what already has been reported and gaggle reporting of the same press conferences. Great journalism goes out and finds news and information that people should know about but isn’t in plain sight, and it shines a light on that. I want to be part of that.”