Rust Communications COO dies in accident
Newspaper family and friends of Wally Lage across the country are mourning his unexpected death Thursday night after slipping off a pier and getting trapped under a float in Harpswell, Maine.
Lage served as chief operating officer (COO) and vice president for Rust Communications, Inc. of Cape Girardeau, Mo. -- the parent company for the Greene County Daily World.
He was 66.
He's been a yearly visitor to the Linton and Greene County communities and annually played in the Friends of Phil Harris Golf Tournament in early June.
The veteran newspaperman, who was called a visionary in the community newspaper industry, was inducted to the Missouri Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2008.
While leading the Boonville (Mo.) Daily News he had a theory that circulation would increase significantly if the paper reported exclusively on local news.
One of Lage's local news initiatives at the Boonville newspaper was a telephone answering service where local residents could call in and receive updates all day. He updated the service 24 hours a day with anything from baseball scores to crime information.
Lage also served as former president of PAGE Cooperative, a consortium of U.S. newspapers that deals with newspaper vendors. He was currently serving as the cooperative's chairman of the Executive Committee.
PAGE represents more than 570 daily newspapers and over 1,100 non-daily publishing facilities. This represents almost three-quarters of the privately owned daily newspapers in the United States.
His vision and work led to the acquisition of the former Linton Daily Citizen and the former Bloomfield Evening World. The two newspapers have been merged into the Greene County Daily World.
The former publisher of the Southeast Missourian in Cape Girardeau, Lage joined Rust Communications in 1993 when the company had full or part ownership in four newspapers.
Today, the company is one of the fastest growing private newspaper groups in the country with full or part ownership in 19 daily newspapers, more than 30 weekly newspapers and 17 radio stations.
The Southeast Missourian reports that Lage began his newspaper career in 1969 with Winsor Newspapers in Canton, Ill. By age 25, he was publisher of the Boonville Daily News and publisher of free publications in Jefferson City, Mo. and Columbia, Mo.
Before joining Rust Communications, Lage was president of newspaper operations in the Paxton Media Group and general manager of the Paducah Sun. He oversaw acquisitions of several daily and weekly newspapers.
A Jefferson City, Mo., native, Lage was an U.S. Army officer and has a master's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
According to an Associated Press report, the Cumberland County Sheriff's Department says Lage and friends were unloading a boat after an outing to Portland and slipped into the water from the pier and drowned.
Emergency workers performed CPR, but Lage was pronounced dead at Mid Coast Hospital.
Survivors include his wife Dori, four children and seven grandchildren.
"His experience and insights will be missed by our newspaper family," Greene County Daily World General Manager Chris Pruett said.
"Our prayers and thoughts are with his family."