Anton (Tony) Majeri Jr.
Distinguished Legacy Award
Anton (Tony) Majeri’s story began in Europe in World War II. His family was ethnically German but lived in the heart of Yugoslavian resistance to German invaders. They were caught squarely in the middle of the conflict but survived the war and hard years thereafter as displaced persons. Finally, they immigrated to Chicago.
To start his new life, young Anton had to learn English, and quickly, because German speakers were hardly popular in postwar America. He did so by reading newspapers. Newspapers gave him more than a new language. They introduced him to the new world, to the ideas of free speech and democracy, to the opportunities of the American dream, and, of course, to the role of journalism and an informed citizenry. After his studies at Illinois, Majeri joined the Chicago Tribune in 1970.
The Tribune was then a newspaper in transition. Under editor Clayton Kirkpatrick, who joined the staff in 1969, the Tribune embarked on a quest for excellence that continued for decades. Majeri brought with him the relatively new discipline of publication design, a fresh way of approaching news and information. He applied classic design principles: form must follow function. Details had to be just right. The Tribune‘s pages soon crackled with Majeri’s sense of contrast in color, texture, size, and shape. He elevated its typography and added a new sophistication to its images.
The paper put Majeri in charge of its art department and urged him to expand and redefine it. He built the industry’s first graphics department, teaming editors and reporters with artists to create explanatory maps, charts, and illustrations. He partnered with famed Tribune features editor Colleen Dishon to launch new tightly focused sections appealing to audience and advertising niches—”Feminique,” “Friday,” “Good Eating,” and many more. The new graphics department and new feature sections were quickly copied throughout the newspaper industry.
Majeri’s reputation spread outside Chicago. He redesigned other Tribune Company newspapers, became a sought-after speaker, and befriended like-minded designers in other cities. In 1978, a few of them founded the Society of News Design. Majeri hosted the group’s first convention in Chicago and later became its president. In 2004, he received its Lifetime Achievement Award.
Majeri was eventually named the Tribune‘s senior innovation editor. He continued to revitalize the print product but also pushed the newsroom into digital storytelling, co-managing a series of R&D projects. He helped develop digital alternatives to classified advertising like Cars.com and Careerbuilder.com.
Throughout his career, Majeri coached and taught energetically. He was a fixture at conferences and seminars in the United States and abroad. He taught at several universities and helped Ball State University transform its journalism department into a leader in digital storytelling. He spoke to hundreds of high school classes.
In 2005, Majeri retired with his wife, Marilyn, to Ft. Myers, Florida, where they often entertain their two children and their families.
Richard Curtis, the longtime design director at USA Today and another former president of the Society of News Design, remembered Majeri as “unyielding in his pursuit of truth and excellence.” “He is an excellent leader,” Curtis wrote. “Even in retirement, Tony’s leadership has continued to guide the actions, thoughts, and deeds of others.”