A memorial service for former Pioneer Press editor Deborah Howell was held in Washington today.
Former PiPress reporter Jacqui Banaszynski delivered the remembrance on Richard Prince’s Journal-isms blog.
After Howell died, Banaszynski said she got a call from a young Pioneer Press reporter assigned to write Howell’s obituary. “I’m so sorry for your loss,” the reporter said.
Banaszynski said she had been “without words or breath” until then. But then the words came. “‘Oh, my dear,’ I said. ‘I’m the one who’s sorry. I’m sorry you didn’t know her. I’m sorry you’ll never have the chance to work for her. I’m sorry she’ll never send you out on your ass or dress you down or lift you up. Yours is the greater loss.”
She also shared this anecdote on an edit Howell gave her over a story about “famine camps” on the Ethiopian border:
“Soon we were toe-to-toe in a verbal smackdown,” Banaszynski said. “She demanded I cut my story — a lot. I demanded she explain herself — with precision. . . . At the time, I just wanted to set fire to her hair.”
The story became a Pulitzer Prize finalist.