Morton Mintz, a 1964 Nieman Fellow, who worked at The Washington Post with Murrey Marder for many years offered this remembrance of Marder, who died March 11 at the age of 93.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve regarded Murrey Marder as a saint of journalism, and I believe I was anything but alone in doing so. He embodied and furthered journalism’s highest ideals, and he did so until the very end without a trace of self-righteousness. To any reporter who would speak truth to power, as he so bravely and memorably did to Senator Joe McCarthy, he was truly a lasting inspiration.
When I started out as a reporter, in 1946, at the old St. Louis Star-Times, the milieu was still that of “The Front Page,” the 1928 Broadway comedy about tabloid police reporters: Get that picture—and don’t tell me how you got it; a city editor who panicked if the first edition of the Post-Dispatch had an item about a two-bit burglary we didn’t have. Accountability? Ethics? Words of this kind we didn’t hear.
At The Washington Post, which I joined at the end of 1958, I saw in Murrey a journalist like none I’d ever known. He personified and radiated accountability and ethics. About the press, as about so much else, he was a brave, fair, incisive, informed, steady and wise watchdog.
“The [George W.] Bush administration will leave the White House with relations between the presidency and the press in shambles,” Murrey wrote in the Spring 2008 Nieman Reports. “No other president has set out so determinedly to discredit the role of the press as a watchdog on the transparency and accountability of government. Sadly, during the Bush presidency the American press sidestepped the administration’s hypocrisy of fighting a war to bring a free press to Iraq, while seeking to reduce its oxygen in the United States.” How I wish Murrey had been watch-dogging at The Washington Post when the Bush administration was maneuvering to take us, disastrously, into the war in Iraq!
Murrey cared, always. The funding he so generously provided to create and sustain the Nieman Watchdog Project is but one example. He ennobled his profession. But it went beyond that: He was in every respect a fine human being. That he counted me a friend I will see as an honor to the end of my days.
Nieman Reports articles by Murrey Marder:
What Happens When Journalists Don’t Probe From Summer 2003
This is Watchdog Journalism From Summer 1998
Arrogance Wins? American Journalism’s Identity Crisis From Fall 1998
The Press and the Presidency: Silencing the Watchdog From Spring 2008
Murrey Marder, Pathfinder by Bill Kovach, NF ’89
Murrey Marder: “Utterly Tenacious About the Truth” by Charles Lewis
Obituary for Murrey Marder in The Washington Post
Marder’s Bio at Nieman Watchdog
Watch Marder discuss what it was like to cover Sen. Joseph McCarthy