PHILADELPHIA -- James M. Naughton, a former reporter for The New York Times and executive editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, has died after a battle with cancer, his wife said. He was 73.

Diana Naughton said from St. Petersburg, Fla., on Sunday that her husband died peacefully surrounded by family members Saturday.

James Naughton began working for a local newspaper while in high school in Ohio. From 1962 to 1969, he worked for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and was a police reporter for WGAR radio during a four-month newspaper strike, according to a biography from The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, where Naughton was president until he retired in 2003.

From 1969 to 1977, Naughton was a Washington correspondent for The New York Times, covering the Nixon administration and the Watergate hearings.

Naughton then worked almost two decades at The Philadelphia Inquirer, stepping down as executive editor in 1996. He spent seven years as president of The Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday called him "irrepressibly mischievous," recounting such pranks as donning a chicken costume for a presidential news conference and "springing all manner of livestock on unsuspecting colleagues."

"I love being in the company of people who care about the written word, the oral word," Naughton said upon his retirement from Poynter, according to the Tampa Bay Times. "I love the dark humor and a mix of skepticism and a self-effacing understanding of the role."

Naughton is survived by his wife, four children and five grandchildren. Diana Naughton said a small family ceremony is planned for Wednesday in Painesville, Ohio.

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