That summer the first cases of the then unnamed HIV-AIDS epidemic appeared, so I was off and running on a long and tough medical and human story that still haunts me today.
Mary McGrory brought her illustrious column to the Post. Looking back, I realize how much the Star had long cultivated pioneering women journalists and also young reporters. We were young and hungry at the second paper in town. Now, thirty years later, many of those ambitious young Star reporters are part of the journalistic establishment.
Fred Hiatt later went on to become the Post’s editorial page editor. Howie Kurtz became a well known Post media critic and CNN star before decamping last year for the online world of The Daily Beast. Sue Schmidt, a young aide on the Star national desk, became an intrepid Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter at the Post and later The Wall Street Journal.
Maureen Dowd went to Time and then The New York Times; Mary McGrory would be quite proud of Maureen’s successful op-ed column. The workaholic Robert Pear continues to analyze entitlement programs—and break stories—for the Times’s Washington bureau. I saw my friend Gloria Borger, another Star metro reporter, on CNN just last week, analyzing the debt ceiling debacle. And Michael Isikoff, grey-haired now, but just as dogged, went to Newsweek and then to NBC News, where he is now its national investigative correspondent.
The Ear and Diana went to the Post for a short while before moving to The Washington Times, a conservative paper started by Unification Church founder Sun Myung Moon soon after the Star folded. A number of the Star’s senior reporters and editors headed there, and that paper was lucky to have them.
Legendary political reporters and columnists Jack Germond and Jules Witcover went to the Baltimore Sun, along with the dean of Supreme Court reporting, Lyle Denniston. Others started new careers in broadcasting, including my boss Barbara Cochran (then Barbara Cohen), who had made her way up the editing ranks at the Star to managing editor and went on to become a top radio and television executive. Political reporter Fred Barnes gained fame for his conservative commentary at The Weekly Standard and on television, now at Fox News.
Not everyone stayed in DC, of course; some left for other regional papers, like the Hartford Courant (where editor Denis Horgan landed and became a columnist, as well) and others for new careers in public affairs or writing books.
Sadly, I can’t make it to the Mr. Henry’s reunion, but I have been keeping up with the running comments on the Star’s Facebook page, which has ninety-eight members. Another growing list, sadly, keeps track of Star alum obits as well. From afar, I will toast The Washington Star and the dead afternoon newspapers of yore: “We miss you. May you rest in peace.” Who knows how many more reunions there might be, since ”30” in newspaper lingo, also means “The End.” (When we typed stories in days of old, the signoff was, “—30—” to signify the end of the story.)
But, most importantly, I will also raise a glass to the health of today’s struggling morning newspapers. Thirty years ago, I could never have believed that the mighty Washington Post and so many other papers would be in such deep trouble today. They are working hard not to suffer the sad fate of afternoon newspapers like the Star that did not learn their lessons in time.