NEW YORK (AP) – Richard J. Blood, a former city editor at the New York Daily News who nurtured a generation of young journalists while teaching for more than two decades at the Columbia University School of Journalism and New York University, has died. He was 83.
Blood died of respiratory failure in Manhattan on Friday, according to his eldest son, Associated Press political writer Michael Blood.
“I never knew anyone to get more excited about a good story,” Michael said of his father, who taught until he was 79.
Blood was born in the Boston suburb of Lynn, Mass., on Nov. 12, 1928. He joined the Navy as a teenager and later served in the Merchant Marine before attending Boston University and, later, Columbia’s journalism school, where he graduated with a master’s degree in 1958.
He began his career at newspapers in New Hampshire, Vermont and New Jersey before joining the now-defunct Newark (N.J.) Evening News and, later, the Daily News in New York in 1970.
“Dick was one hell of a newsman,” said Mike Oreskes, AP’s senior managing editor who reported for the Daily News from 1975 to 1981.
“He cared passionately about the story, whatever the story was, and he loved nothing more than when one of his reporters came back with a scoop,” Oreskes said.
“I was proud and lucky to have been one of those reporters. He never let any of us settle for less than the best in getting the story,” said Oreskes, who added that he still hears his voice every day, “still urging us to get out there.”
Blood also put his stamp on a slew of notable journalism students, including New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, who recalled lacking confidence in his journalism before taking the professor’s rigorous course at Columbia University in 1988.
“The main lesson I learned from him is if you have some ability and are willing to work really hard to cultivate that ability to its greatest potential, you will have some success,” said Bruni, who has worked in some of the most desired jobs in journalism, ranging from the Times’ Washington correspondent covering national politics to the paper’s restaurant critic.
Blood, known to wield a red pen like a sword aimed at sloppy writing, thoughtless reporting and cliche, was not lavish in his praise, but his praise was deeply felt.
“In a world that is way, way too seldom a meritocracy, I think Dick Blood was the ultimate — if it’s a word — meritocrat,” Bruni said.
“I don’t think there’s a student he had that wasn’t bettered by him, and I doubt there was a single professor whose students felt more loyalty to and adoration of him.”
One of Blood’s classroom sayings was to always “eat the meal,” a reference to a time when a student came back to his classroom from covering a soup kitchen’s Thanksgiving meal without having tasted it.
The lesson was learned as a metaphor for future students: Always try to get as close as possible to a subject, to understand their story and soak in every detail.
Former student Annia Ciezadlo, who studied with Blood at NYU, said her memoir “Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War” was inspired in part by that lesson.
“For me the way I translated that into the experience of covering war was that you have to understand what civilians are going through,” said Ciezadlo, who worked as a war correspondent in Iraq for The Christian Science Monitor and a reporter in the Middle East.
“You can’t understand what people are going through unless you experience it yourself, if you’re covering a shooting you count each bullet hole, you have to pay those things attention, you have to soak up every possible detail,” she said.
Another lesson Ciezadlo recalled was the importance of spelling names right _ students were given automatic “F”s when they didn’t.
He is survived by his wife, Dr. Carol Joyce Blood of Manhattan and New Lebanon, N.Y., two sons, Michael R. Blood of Los Angeles, and a former City Hall Bureau Chief for the News, Christopher R. Blood of Denville, N.J., a daughter Kathleen Blood Stokas of Tucson, Ariz., and four grandchildren.
Associated Press writer Shaya Tayefe Mohajer in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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