John Craig Jr., 77, editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from 1977 to 2003, died Wednesday of metastatic melanoma at his home in suburban Sewickley Heights.

Mr. Craig went to the Post-Gazette in 1976 as an assistant to then-publisher William Block Sr. and took over the newspaper the next year, a position he held until he was replaced by David Shribman in 2003.

"John fought for and loved the Post-Gazette more than anyone could fight for and love an inanimate object, because for him the Post-Gazette represented vitality and life itself," Shribman said.

Mr. Craig is credited with revitalizing the paper and diversifying its staff. He also helped create the Riverlife Task Force in 1999, now known as just Riverlife, to find ways to beautify and better use the city's riverfronts.

When a strike shut down the Post-Gazette and its then-rival, the Pittsburgh Press, in 1992, Mr. Craig used a skeleton staff to send out news by fax and employed a town crier downtown.

"He was thinking out of the box before people knew there was a box," columnist Reg Henry said. "He was a contrarian, and very challenging - and therefore irritating - but all in the pursuit of excellence."

- AP