Monday, June 16, 2014

David Burgin, longtime newspaper editor, dies

C. David Burgin, a longtime editor who merged the Palo Alto Times and Redwood City Tribune and held top positions with the Examiner and Dean Singleton's Alameda Newspaper Group, died Monday at his home in Houston after a lengthy illness. He was 75.

According to the Associated Press, Burgin died of the effects of four serious strokes he had suffered since 1997, said his wife, Judy Burgin.

Burgin had served as editor-in-chief of seven U.S. daily newspapers, starting with New Jersey's Paterson News in 1977. His first top management jobs came at The Washington Star, where he rose through the ranks of sports editor and city editor to assistant managing editor and hired such young talent as future New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd and sportswriter Ira Berkow.

He talked two Washington bartenders, future Boston Globe business writer Chris Reidy and future Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Daley, into trying newspaper work.

After getting his first assignment of running a newspaper in 1977, as editor-in-chief of the Paterson News in New Jersey, The Tribune Co. hired him a year later to merge two of its Bay Area dailies, the Palo Alto Times and Redwood City Tribune, into the Peninsula Times Tribune, which closed in 1993.

The Tribune Co. later sent him to improve and expand the Orlando Sentinel.

In 1985, Hearst Newspapers hired Burgin to revive the fading fortunes of its flagship San Francisco Examiner. He was fired by publisher William Randolph Hearst III after seven months on the job.

In a 1996 profile published in the SF Weekly, Burgin said he was fired after spurning an invitation to meet with the Hearst Corp. board.

After doing consulting work for a year, Burgin took the offer of former Washington Star colleague William Dean Singleton to be editor-in-chief of the Dallas Times Herald, which Singleton had just bought from the Times Mirror Corp.

From 1986 to 1990, Burgin worked to try to save two Singleton dailies from extinction, running the Dallas daily for two years before the owner of its crosstown rival, The Dallas Morning News, bought and folded it.

Singleton took the proceeds to buy The Houston Post, another struggling No. 2 newspaper in its market, and hired Burgin as its editor-in-chief for the next two years.

In 1990, Singleton hired Burgin to run a newspaper group he had just bought in the Bay Area, the Alameda Newspaper Group (later the Bay Area Newspaper Group), which included the Oakland Tribune.

Singleton sold the Houston Post in 1995 to its dominant crosstown rival, the Houston Chronicle, which folded the Post.

Burgin began to acquire a reputation for trying to revive fading and dying newspapers, having been associated with so many of them, Judy Burgin said.

"He was brought in when there was trouble. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it was too late," she said.

He remained as editor and vice president of Singleton's Bay Area Newspaper Group until 1997 when he suffered the first of a series of four serious strokes.

But convalescing easily bored him, his wife said, so he took over a book publisher, Woodford Publishing, and in 2000 rejoined the no-longer-Hearst-owned San Francisco Examiner. He was fired a year later.

His health continued to deteriorate, but he never lost his penchant for ideas for an increasingly struggling newspaper industry, Judy Burgin said.

"It was heartbreaking to him what was happening. He had ideas for how to fix it, but he was too sick to act on them," she said.

A memorial is tentatively scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, June 22, at the Houston Country Club.

4 comments:

Fred Dodsworth said...

When I interview Will Hearst he said Burgin, who struggled with alcoholism, didn't "spur" Hearst's invitation to meet with the board... he failed to show up at the board meeting because he was on a bender. Now that he's dead folks will plaster over his many flaws but he was an awful editor to work with, even when he was sober.

Les Mahler said...

David Burgin will have his detractors but having worked with him while at the SF Examiner during the Fang days, I found him to be one of the best old-fashioned journalists.
He had a lot to offer and he was more than willing to teach.
I can honestly say my days at the Examiner with Burgin were some of the best times in my 20-plus years as a journalist.
Thank you Dave from "Hawkeye."

Anonymous said...

Over-rated and overpaid. never stayed anywhere long enough to make a real difference. Made a lot of dumb mistakes along the way, especially in Houston during the short time he was there.

Anonymous said...

Look up "most overrated" in the dictionary and you're liable to see a picture of Dave Burgin. Too little, too late to make any differences whatsoever. And his "eye for talent" tag is exaggerated as well. He liked to hire bartenders, probably because he got a bigger discount off his considerable bar tabs as a result.