Reflecting on Richard Reeves

Lifetime Achievers

This is the sixth in a series of articles about recipients of the NSNC’s annual Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award.

By Dave Astor
Archivist
National Society of Newspaper Columnists

Dave Astor

Dave Astor

As I prepared to write this latest article in my chronological series about NSNC Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award recipients, I was thrilled to reach a year (1998) that for the first time featured a winner who’s still alive!

These were the questions I prepared for Richard Reeves:

  1. Looking back 18 years, how do you feel about having won the Lifetime Achievement Award?
  2. Where do you hang/keep the plaque now?
  3. How has the role/experience of the newspaper columnist changed since 1998?

Alas, the 79-year-old columnist/author proved impossible to reach. I tried contacting Reeves through his website, through the publisher of his latest book, through the university for which he most recently taught and in a couple of other ways. No luck. I also couldn’t find the 1998 Editor & Publisher magazine article (online or offline) I wrote after watching Reeves’ acceptance speech in San Diego.

But I did reach that year’s conference host: Pete Rowe, the longtime San Diego Union-Tribune writer and 2000-02 NSNC president.

“This will sound hopelessly old-fashioned in the Trumpism era,” said Rowe, “but I admired Reeves’ calm, even-handed temperament. I’m sure he’s a liberal voter in the polling booth, but he’s an open-minded and insightful writer at the computer terminal — check out his books on Nixon and Reagan. His ability to approach ideological foes with fairness and compassion struck me as laudable.”

Rowe added that Reeves “was easy to deal with” when invited to San Diego 18 years ago. “Because he’s a good friend of George Mitrovich, a local who runs the City Club of San Diego, Reeves agreed to speak to us and to the club — and the two organizations split his airfare,” remembered Rowe, with the NSNC paying for the Lifetime winner’s hotel room.

Yes, even back then our organization had to be careful with its budget!

Richard Reeves - Photo, Stevens Institute of Technology

Richard Reeves
Photo, Stevens Institute of Technology

In 1998, Reeves was just over halfway through his 1979-2014 run as a syndicated columnist covering politics, international affairs and more. At its peak, his column was published in more than 160 newspapers and websites, according to RichardReeves.com.

Reeves — who has authored more than 20 books — trained as a mechanical engineer before switching to journalism at the age of 23 as co-founder of the Phillipsburg (New Jersey) Free Press. He later became a reporter for the Newark Evening News and New York Herald Tribune then chief political correspondent for The New York Times.

He also wrote for other publications (including stints as national editor and columnist for Esquire and New York magazines), was senior lecturer at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication, served as chief correspondent for television’s Frontline, made six TV films, and even appeared in two feature movies: Dave (as himself) and Seabiscuit.

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Dave Astor writes the “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for The Montclair (New Jersey) Times, blogs at DaveAstorOnLiterature.com, and is the author of the memoir Comic (and Column) Confessional.

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This piece first was published in the April 2016 issue of The Columnist, the monthly membership newsletter of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

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