His first newspaper job was as a summer reporter at his hometown paper, the Nashua Telegraph. It must have been a rewarding experience because soon after he graduated from Harvard, he signed on at The Providence Journal. That was 1957, and Stephen Hamblett never looked back.
Steve rose from advertising department clerk to publisher in a career fueled by qualities for which he became famous — quick wit, dedication to excellence, warmth, good humor, passion for his community and deep-seated belief in the wonder of newspapers.
During his leadership, The Providence Journal prospered financially and journalistically, the two most fundamental measures of a newspaper’s success. The Journal’s strong financial health drew the attention of the Belo Corporation, which acquired The Providence Journal Co. in 1997.
The publisher’s job is a tightrope act, at once community booster and — via the newsroom — community watchdog. Steve Hamblett walked that rope with skill and integrity for 12 years, from 1987 to 1999, never flinching at either responsibility.
Howard G. Sutton, who succeeded Steve in 1999, said, “Steve Hamblett ran The Providence Journal during an era of hectic change in the media business. He did so with vision, compassion, decisiveness, ingenuity, and calm, leading the firm around numerous economic shoals as it became a truly national media company, all the while maintaining the Journal’s long commitment to high-quality journalism and community improvement.”
One of the many proofs of the newspaper’s commitment to journalistic excellence came on Steve’s watch in 1994 with the award of a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting on “pervasive corruption within the Rhode Island court system.”
“The Journal newsroom held Steve in high regard,” said Thomas E. Heslin, executive director of The Providence Journal. “He was widely respected as a great businessman, but he knew that good journalism is good business. The newsroom always knew it had its support.”
A national figure as well as a local one, he served on the board of the Associated Press, Inter-American Press Association and the Smithsonian Institution.
As single-minded and hardworking an executive he was, he left plenty of room for his family, his friends, an occasional drink, a good cigar and a joke. His passing in December 2005 at age 71, generated obituaries from coast (the Los Angeles Times) to coast (The New York Times) and all points in between. Steve Hamblett’s memory lives on in dozens of ways. Add to them The Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award.