Maurice “Mickey” Carroll
Maurice “Mickey” Carroll, who as a reporter for some 40 years filtered the gas and gobbledygook emanating from the mouths of politicians into crystal-clear prose that spoke straight talk to his readers, died on Dec. 6 of colon cancer. He was 86. Widely admired by his peers, he was presented with the Silurians’ Peter Kihss Award in 2009. Even the people he covered appreciated his acerbic wit and political savvy. On the night the Kihss Award was presented, former New York governor Mario Cuomo was also at the National Arts Club, on other business. When he heard that Mickey Carroll was being honored in the next room, he insisted on dropping by to shake his hand.
In 1995, following a journalism career that took him to at least eight newspapers, Carroll became the public face of the opinion poll produced by Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn. As the prime spokesman for its New York and New Jersey polls, he played a key role in establishing Quinnipiac as one of the best-known pollsters in the nation. He did it by doing what he did as a reporter: Just as he could cut through the fog of political blather to tell you what was really being said — or not said — he could translate raw polling data into easily digestible and informative nuggets of news.
Carroll was born in Rutherford, N.J., and fittingly enough, his journalism career started in New Jersey, where he worked for The Passaic Herald News, The Jersey Journal and The Star Ledger of Newark. He eventually crossed the river and over the years his byline appeared in The New York Times, The Herald Tribune, The Journal American, The New York Post and New York Newsday. He specialized in covering government and politics, but one of his more memorable assignments came on Nov. 22, 1963, when The Tribune sent him to Dallas to help report on the aftermath of the John F. Kennedy assassination. Two days later, he sent The Tribune an eye-witness account of the fatal shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald, the president’s accused killer, by Jack Ruby in the basement of Dallas police headquarters. Carroll later wrote that his voice was one of the last ever heard by Oswald as he shouted out a question: “How about it, Lee?” He never got an answer.
Rita Henley Jensen
Rita Henley Jensen, who founded Women’s eNews, an independent news service she launched in 2000, died at home in New York on Oct. 18. She was 70. A former senior writer for the National Law Journal and columnist for The New York Times Syndicate, Jensen guided Women’s eNews to almost 50 journalism awards, including the PASS Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency and the Rosa Cisneros Award from the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Western Hemisphere Region. She also was cited by The New York Daily News as one of the 100 most influential women in New York and, most recently, was named the 2016 Iconic Thought Leader for the Decade in Media by the Women Economic Forum, based in India. Jensen stepped down as editor-in-chief of Women’s eNews in May 2016, when she was accepted as a research associate at the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center, where she explored racial and gender inequities through her research project, “Jane Crow.” Her other awards include the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism Alumni Award; the Hunter College Presidential Grant for Innovative Uses of Technology; an Alicia Patterson fellowship; and the Lloyd P. Burns Public Service prize.
Charles DeLaFuente, a veteran writer and editor whose law degree helped him become an expert in libel law, died on Aug. 18 at the age of 71. Although he retired from The New York Times in 2013, he continued to write for the paper until this year. He had joined The Times as a copy editor in 1998. Earlier, he worked at many New York newspapers, including The Post, The News and Newsday as well as at UPI, the Albany Times-Union, and The (Troy, N.Y.) Record, where he was editor in chief.
Gabe Pressman, the pioneering newsman who practically invented street reporting on television and whose career as a reporter stretched for more than six decades, died on June 23. He was 93, a longtime Silurian, and winner of the 1988 Peter Kihss Award. An affable man whose collegiality toward his fellows extended even to reporters from rival news organizations, he was ferocious when it came to holding politicians’ feet to the fire and relentless where the First Amendment was concerned. Along the way, he established a reputation for honesty and integrity, and a passion for getting the story and getting it right that remains unmatched. Hypocrisy and bully-boys and crooks and phonies got his juices flowing and he was always ready to nail them for it.
Bill O’Dwyer was the mayor when Pressman started covering City Hall for the World Telegram & Sun in 1949 and he hasn’t stopped shooting questions at all the mayors since then. Some wouldn’t dare start their press conferences unless he was there. He moved into radio in 1954 at WRCA (now WNBC) as the station’s first “roving reporter,” and then to television in 1956. With the exception of eight years at WNEW-TV in the 1970s, he was with NBC ever since. He never retired, but held the title of senior correspondent for WNBC-TV and kept reporting until he died.
Reviewing the scope of his coverage is like reading a history of our times: the sinking of the Andrea Doria, all the New York City blackouts, the tumultuous Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968, civil strife and transit strikes, riots in Newark and New York, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, endless campaigns for mayor and governor and president. In addition, there was all that reporting from Israel and the specials about the homeless and the hungry and the mentally ill that brought him an avalanche of awards: 11 Emmys, an Edward R. Murrow Award, a Peabody Award, a Deadline Club award and many, many others. He was the man with the microphone and, as one of his obituaries said, it seemed as though he was always there.
Herb Dorfman, a television news writer, producer and director, and a veteran Silurian, died on June 22. He was 88. Following graduation from Brooklyn College in 1951, Dorfman went to Norway on a Fulbright Scholarship in journalism. When he returned to the U.S., he worked for several television organizations. He was executive producer of the Emmy-winning “Channel 2 Eye On” and was a head writer at ABC’s “Good Morning America.”