Mentor, journalist, leader left mark on community

HAMILTON — In addition to being a dedicated and award-winning editor, Lisa Warren will be remembered as an advocate for community-based journalism who believed in using newspapers as an instrument of philanthropy.

In 2004, Warren spearheaded the first JournalNews Food Relief, a fundraising drive with Shared Harvest Foodbank, which continued through 2009 and raised $139,823 in contributions.

“It’s not often in your life that you encounter real champions,” said Tina Osso, director of Shared Harvest. “People who really commit themselves and do what they say they are going to do.

“Lisa gave a voice to the voiceless and was in tune with people who suffer, whether from poverty or from illness and knew how to draw from her reporters that humanity so their stories that were presented touched hearts,” Osso said.

Under her leadership, the JournalNews partnered with the Fairfield Community Foundation and the Joe Nuxhall Hope Project to raise money to build a sports complex at One Way Farm for abused and troubled children, and to build sports fields and leagues for handicapped children.

Those efforts included a free community forum, attended by 4,000 people, and community-wide reading of “Seasons of Life,” a book about values and ethics; the sale of a Joe Nuxhall commemorative DVD with a portion of proceeds to the Hope Project; and sponsorship of the annual Joe Nuxhall Hope Project banquet and fundraiser.

Kim Nuxhall, Joe’s son, said he first met Warren at the initial planning meeting for the “Building Men For Others” rally in 2005 that was inspired by “Season of Life,” written by Pulitzer Prize winner Jeffrey Marx.

“I knew right away that she was the lightning bolt to make that happen,” he said. “Dad said that it was the greatest event ever, and I’ll be forever grateful for her work on that.

“What I loved is that she came up with a plan rather quickly and put people into action.”

She gained the respect and admiration of her readers by sharing her battle with cancer through intermittent columns that described the sorrow of dealing with the disease and her hopes for cure and recovery.

“Lisa brought to the job of newspaper editor four qualities that are rare to find in one person: Professionalism, passion, a sincere concern for people, and the ability to recognize and tell honest, human stories,” said Mike Williams, editorial page editor for the Middletown Journal and the JournalNews. “That’s what made her a great editor and why readers responded with love and prayers when Lisa was brave enough to share her own difficult story.”

“So many, many people close to us — or even strangers next to us in the grocery line — are fighting this same battle,” Warren wrote in March 2009, after receiving the gift of a quilt from the Presbyterian Church. “We need strength, we need the unexpected quilt and the hug. You can’t understand what it is like from the outside looking in.”

Pastor John Lewis said Warren was “very gracious,” always supportive of his church’s efforts to do things for the community, and during her illness she was frequently lifted up in prayer groups.

“The world could use a few more of her, that’s for sure,” Lewis said.

During her tenure, the social and economic climate of Butler County went through rapid and often controversial changes, and Warren guided her newspapers through the shifting landscape, embracing new media as well as traditional reporting and storytelling.

Warren was the first editor in southwest Ohio to introduce a daily webcast and to produce a Spanish-language web page of local news. She worked with Cincinnati’s Local 12 to set up a Butler County bureau in the JournalNews building, from which daily live telecasts update viewers.

“Lisa’s leadership was a uniting force that motivated her newsroom to produce work that enriched lives and communities,” said Lisa Bernard-Kuhn, a former JournalNews reporter now with the Cincinnati Enquirer. “Lisa’s passion for the work we do and understanding of the direction of our changing industry was matched by few. She was one among us who had the ability to replace our anxieties with anticipation for the future.”

Before joining Cox Media Group, Warren served as an editor at the Cincinnati Post for 22 years. She has been a visiting faculty member for both the Poynter Institute in Florida and for Miami University, Oxford.

“Lisa didn’t just tell reporters to do things differently, she encouraged them to think differently,” said colleague Dan Horn, a former Cincinnati Post reporter now with the Enquirer. “To think better. To look at stories from angles they hadn’t considered and might never have considered without her gentle and, when necessary, not-so-gentle prodding. She made reporters better at what they do.”

Warren, a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Cincinnati, was named one of the top college women in the nation by Glamour magazine in 1978. She served on the boards of the Associated Press Society of Ohio and the Ohio Newspaper Association, and was passionate about community causes, working with local food banks, hospitals and churches on issues of wellness, food relief for the poor and immigration. She also worked closely with the Joe Nuxhall Hope Project to promote character education.

“In my 30 years of experience with newspapers large and small, Lisa’s ability to drive initiatives was virtually unequalled,” said former Cox Southwest Group publisher Ann Hoffman. “She had an eye for talent and talent gravitated to her. Lisa’s creativity, work ethic, passion for news and commitment to community service earned her the admiration and respect of her staff, her peers and the communities her papers serve.”

Warren leaves her husband of 27 years, Philip Novick, and two daughters, Julianne and Elizabeth Warren-Novick.

Services are pending. Meanwhile, memorials may be made to the Joe Nuxhall Hope Project, care of the Fairfield Community Foundation, 5350 Pleasant Ave., Fairfield, Ohio 45014.

Contact this reporter at (513) 820-2188 or

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