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Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Walter Mears dead at 87

Associated Press

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Walter Mears, a longtime political reporter for the Associated Press known for covering presidential campaigns, died on Thursday at age 87.

Mears died in Chapel Hill, N.C., eight days after he was diagnosed with multiple forms of cancer, according to The Associated Press.

The journalist — who was known for his speedy writing and once quipped “I could produce a story as fast as I can type” — covered 11 presidential campaigns over four decades, from the contest between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in 1960 to that between George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000, per the AP.

“Walter’s impact at the AP, and in the journalism industry as a whole, is hard to overstate,” said AP Executive Editor and Senior Vice President Julie Pace. “He was a champion for a free and fair press, a dogged reporter, an elegant chronicler of history and an inspiration to countless journalists, including myself.”

Mears served as the AP’s Washington bureau chief as well as the executive editor at the news wire’s headquarters in New York. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1977 for his coverage of the 1976 presidential election.

Recounting the award during an interview in 2013 recorded by C-SPAN on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK, Mears said of his writing that year, “I felt like I had come into my own.”

The journalist said Nixon was the most interesting candidate he had covered. “Nixon was so many different people wrapped up into one person. It was fascinating, he was brilliant, he was flawed, he was capable, he was incompetent. At one time, he was one of everything,” Mears said.

Mears was born in Lynn, Mass., and grew up in Lexington, according to the AP. He graduated in 1956 from Middlebury College in Vermont and joined the AP newsroom in Boston a week later.

Even after he retired in 2001, Mears continued to cover presidential campaigns for the AP.

According to the wire service, Mears became known for being able to identify the essence of a story as it was occurring. “Walter, what’s our lead?” became a catchphrase among political journalists, referring to what was most newsworthy about any given event.

Mears was also known for keeping his political opinions to himself and maintaining a distance from sources and those he covered in his work, according to the AP.

“Too many people regard the media as what they see as in the late-night shows on cable TV,” Mears said during a journalism forum in 2004.

In addition to his many articles, Mears also wrote an autobiography, “Deadlines Past: Forty Years of Presidential Campaigning, A Reporter’s Story,” that recounts his coverage of over four decades of presidential campaigns.

Tags Al Gore Associated Press Jimmy Carter Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Walter Mears
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