INDIANA NATIVE SHEA VAN HOY LEADS ACCLAIMED REGIONAL BUSINESS PUBLICATION WITH EXPERIENCE, EMPATHY
By Amanda Beam | Photos by JD Dotson
When Shea Van Hoy travels the streets of Louisville and Southern Indiana, he sees stories. Most folks might not pay close attention to the paper taped to a grocery store door or some new remodeling on a vacant building. But with more than a two-decade career in journalism, Shea understands the meaning behind these measures. And as Editor-In-Chief of Louisville Business First, the 46-year-old translates these curiosities into reliable, informational articles for his readers.
“I’m always looking for a story,” Shea said. “Say, I see a sign that I know is an alcoholic beverage permit sign on a business across the street. You know I’m going across the street to find out the name of the business so we can chase down the story, and hopefully get it before someone else.”
Inquisitiveness is innate to the Mitchell, Ind. native. Beginning in his teens, Shea found an interest in the school’s newspaper and yearbook. In a nod to famous Hoosier David Letterman, the budding writer would construct humorous Top Ten lists alongside other colorful features. But after graduating from Mitchell High School in 1993, he decided to pursue a degree in business at Ball State University. An economics class his sophomore year changed his mind, and he switched to journalism instead.
In all his career, Shea has only worked in media. After his Ball State graduation, the 18-year-old joined the Kokomo Tribune, first as an intern, then as a full-time page designer, an experience that allowed him to value how information is conveyed. Eventually, he began to report again for then-managing editor Steve Kozarovich. Steve
also introduced Shea to business writing.
“I could see the way he was a creative writer, which was great,” said Steve, who is now senior account director at PriceWeber Marketing. “His stories were never dull. He was a smart guy who knew what questions to ask. He was curious, which was great for journalists. And he seemed to just get it.”
In 2005, Shea took his journalistic acumen to a paper in Fayetteville, Ark., where he was the senior business reporter. Eighteen months later, Steve, then a publisher, offered him a job back home in Indiana at the soon-to-be combined New Albany Tribune and The Evening News. Learning from those in leadership roles before him, he remained editor of the Southern Indiana newspaper, News and Tribune, for more than a decade.
“I’ve literally never had a bad boss in journalism,” Shea said. “How the hell do I get that lucky?”
While he oversaw coverage of major happenings, such as the 2012 Henryville tornadoes, Shea’s favorite event he ever covered was Jeffersonville’s trip to the 2008 Little League World Series. Through his reporting, he witnessed the skills of future Arizona Diamondback third baseman Drew Ellis and other young players.
“A guy that I covered in the Little League World Series is now in the major leagues, which is pretty awesome,” Shea, a lifelong baseball fan, said. In his down time, his mission is to visit each and every of the 30 major league ballparks. Just this year alone he’s knocked off three more.
In 2016, Shea switched gears. Lisa Benson, the then editor in chief of Louisville Business First needed a managing editor for the publication she oversaw and had heard about Shea’s success with the News and Tribune. She asked him to lunch to discuss possibilities.
“I just got a really great feeling about Shea. He has this way of kind of bringing you in and making you feel comfortable,” Lisa said. “I knew right away that I wanted to hire him for the managing editor position.”
When Lisa moved to publisher of the news outlet in 2019, Shea became editor in chief, a job he continues to hold.
“Shea has this really great combination of creativity and intelligence and really solid news judgments,” Lisa said. “And he also has this really consistently positive attitude and communication style which is a powerful and rare thing I think in the news business… . He’s very empathetic and really does a great job in situations where there are two sides at odds, and people need to come together.”
Helping to bridge a gap further, Shea offers vital knowledge to his business patrons especially during the Covid pandemic. Lisa credits him in particular with providing information on the Paycheck Protection Program and other initiatives that assist those affected by shutdowns. Through this and other specialized coverage, Lisa said Louisville Business First saw record website visits and increased readership.
Covid times have also taught Shea, too, the value of selfcare. Balancing work and family can be tough. Taking breaks is a way for both his staff and himself to reset.
“As a manager, that’s important to lead by example,” Shea said. “I’m not a robot. You guys aren’t robots, either. We need to take care of each other and take time off if needed.”
In addition to his love of baseball, Shea enjoys cooking, hiking, attending concerts and spending time with his pets. Cats are his favorite. He shares a home with felines Moon Pie and Frankie, and, until recently, served on the board of Animal Protection Association, a Southern Indiana nonprofit that rescues felines of all ages.
Likewise, he also assisted the Louisville chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists as a board member and past president.
In an era of shifting revenue models for more traditional newspaper outlets, Louisville Business First continues to thrive. No other media provides the amount of localized coverage and networking opportunities to the business community. That specialization alongside their unique subscriber base has aided in their success. In difficult times, Shea maintains a positive outlook on his beloved profession.
“The nature of a journalist has always been kind of adaptive anyway. It’s a weird job that people don’t understand sometimes, especially if you’re editor,” Shea said. “Journalists are kind of survivors in that way.”