Edward H. Ziegner · 1990
Known for a gruff, biting voice and pen, Edward H. Ziegner also is a man of compassion and one quick to praise when praise is due.
These qualities marked his reporting and writing politics and state government news for the Indianapolis News for more than three decades before he retired in 1985.
Ed’s lifelong love affair with politics and journalism sprang from his journalist father, also named Edward H. Ziegner, who worked at The Indianapolis News as an editorial writer.
After graduating from the former Shortridge High School in 1938 and attending Wabash College, Ed joined The News in 1941 where he worked on the copy desk until enlisting in the Army in World War II.
Ed entered the Army as an enlisted man and left it as a captain after 30 months overseas and four battle scars. He later retired as a major with the Indiana Army National Guard. Combat in war trained him for Indiana politics, he would say.
After the war, Ed became a statehouse reporter for The News in 1945 and began covering politics in 1948. Ed wasn’t a telephone reporter. He drove thousands of miles each year visiting county chairman of both political parties and candidates who won and who lost, always harvesting grass-roots information that made his stories interesting, insightful and more importantly to him — accurate.
That’s why so many honors have been accorded Ed. Among those he treasures is the first Indiana University Chris Savage Award for the best professional reporting in Indiana. He was presented that award in 1965.
In 1967 Ed won the American Political Science Association Award for distinguished reporting of public affairs and in 1981 he was named the Indianapolis Press Club’s Newsman of the Year.
Ed began covering sessions of the Indiana General Assembly in 1953. His gruff voice rising out of the press shack on the third floor of the State House was a harbinger that another session of political combat was about to begin.
From 1969 until 1985, Ed’s annual roast of the legislature from the floor of the House of Representatives at the end of each General Assembly session was a much-anticipated event.
One year he told the assembled lawmakers and lobbyists: "The Indiana legislature is like have a two-ton ball of Jell-o in your driveway. You can kick the hell out of it, but you can’t move it."
While Ed’s tongue could be sharp, he told it like it was. No one questioned his integrity or determination to get a story.
Before his retirement, Ziegner was considered a leading authority to consult on Indiana politics by writers and editors at national publications, like The News York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Time and Life magazines.
When someone from outside wanted to understand Hoosier politics or Hoosier voters, they called or visited Ed to draw on his almost encyclopedic-knowledge of voter decisions.
Ed’s Saturday political columns in The News bite when he encountered posturing or ineffective government. But they were warm, personal and praising when Ed wrote about friends who also just happened to be politicians.
Those politicians include Richard O. Ristine, a Republican and former lieutenant governor of Indiana, who is among those who nominated Ed for induction into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame. In his nominating letter, Ristine wrote of Ed:
"He is respected by all Hoosiers interested in politics and state government. For years he has in fact been the acknowledged dead of Indiana political reporters. He also is a raconteur extraordinaire and for years Indiana’s most sought-after roastmaster.
"I can also say that for over forty years most Republicans have thought Ed was a Democrat and most Democrats have thought him a Republican. I don’t care and only suggest that is one more commendation of his journalistic integrity and professionalism. He does get a bit impatient with mediocrity, but in both parties."
Former reporter Harrison J. Ullman had this to say:
"Ed is the last of a kind — a reporter who reported, explained and interpreted without favor or favorites."
Another former politician and now a vice president of Eli Lilly and Company, Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr., said of Ed’s impact on political practitioners:
"He taught us the honor of the political profession when it is pursued with integrity, candor and true civic purpose — and he never failed to call us to account when we fell short of those standards."
Daniels also said:
"The Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame without Ed Ziegner would be like Cooperstown without Babe Ruth."
Ed, we agree! Welcome into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame.