Nick Horrock: “He brought an unflinching style of muckraking and journalistic zeal”

From a Washington Post obit by Matt Schudel headlined “Nick Horrock, ‘old-school journalist’ at Newsweek and top papers, dies at 84”:

Nicholas M. Horrock, a Washington journalist who reported from war zones, covered the Watergate scandal, was an editor at the New York Times and led the Chicago Tribune’s D.C. bureau, died April 18 at his home in Alexandria, Va….

Mr. Horrock was a beefy onetime Marine with a booming voice and a bonecrushing handshake. In a career of more than 50 years, he worked at publications large and small, from the Times and Newsweek to the old Washington Daily News and the suburban Connection newspapers of Northern Virginia.

Wherever he went, he brought an unflinching style of muckraking and journalistic zeal. In many ways, he was a throwback to the loosened-tie, chain-smoking city editors of black-and-white movies, shouting into the telephone, cursing out politicians and sometimes telling his bosses to get lost.

“He was a scary, big, burly guy,” John Wilpers, who hired Mr. Horrock at one of his final jobs, as managing editor of the Washington Examiner, said. “This guy was physically and mentally imposing. He was one of the most amazing old-school journalist types I’ve ever known.”

He covered the Vietnam War in the 1960s for the Daily News, a Washington paper that folded in 1972, and later for Newsweek. Shortly after joining Newsweek in 1969, Mr. Horrock went undercover posing as an inmate in a Maryland state penitentiary for an award-winning project on prison conditions.

He helped spearhead Newsweek’s coverage of the Watergate scandal. One of Mr. Horrock’s colleagues at Newsweek and later the Times, Anthony Marro, recalled a late-night congressional press briefing during the Watergate investigation. Marro noticed a reporter from Newsweek’s chief competitor, Time magazine, asleep on a cot.

“Everyone rushed out and I started to go back to wake up the Time reporter,” Marro wrote. “Suddenly Horrock grabbed me from behind and spun me around” and, using an epithet, said to let him sleep.

As a Washington reporter and editor at the Times from 1975 to 1983, Mr. Horrock directed investigative stories about the FBI and CIA and later became an editor of the paper’s local news section in New York.

After a second tour of duty at Newsweek, Mr. Horrock joined the Tribune in 1985 and became Washington bureau chief the next year. He led a staff of 24 and often battled his bosses in Chicago.

In 1993, he was ousted from the Tribune after disputes with the paper’s top editor, Howard A. Tyner, whom Mr. Horrock derisively called “Teeny Tyner.” Members of the bureau complained to The Washington Post of Mr. Horrock’s volatile temper and described his management style as one of “petty tyranny.”

For several years, Mr. Horrock worked as an independent investigator for law firms and political parties before becoming the chief White House correspondent for United Press International in 2001. He traveled to Iraq in 2003, surveying the chaos left behind in Baghdad after U.S.-led forces had overrun the capital city.

“Hospitals, museums, shops and homes have been looted,” he wrote. “If the looters took nothing, they destroyed anything else they found, mindlessly tearing apart both the history of one of the first great civilizations on the earth and the history of individual families. In the litter of looting you persistently find family photos, a child’s toy, a music school’s violin, a family antique.”

Nicholas Morton Horrock was born in 1936 in New York City. His father was a multilingual Polish immigrant who became an art dealer. His mother was a writer and editor who, in her youth, once chained herself to the White House while demonstrating for women’s suffrage.

Mr. Horrock worked as a clerk in the advertising department of the Times in his teens and served in the Marine Corps before becoming a reporter in Perth Amboy, N.J., and later for the Baltimore Sun. He received a bachelor’s degree in international relations from American University in 1963.

His marriages to Mae Seward and Mary Ann Kuhn ended in divorce. Survivors include his wife of 42 years, Diane Henry….

Mr. Horrock was the co-author of several books, including two well-received mystery novels written with Henry. After serving as managing editor of the Examiner for three years, he wrote for Northern Virginia’s Connection newspapers….

When Mr. Horrock joined the Examiner in 2004, Wilpers, the paper’s editor in chief, assumed that his résumé — citing his experience as a war correspondent, investigative reporter and Washington bureau chief — “was fake.”

Instead, Wilpers said, Mr. Horrock was eager to work in the small newsroom and become a mentor to young journalists.

“He never once said, ‘I’m better than this, I’m bigger than this,’ ” Wilpers said. “He had journalism running through his veins.”

Matt Schudel has been an obituary writer at The Washington Post since 2004. He previously worked for publications in Washington, New York, North Carolina and Florida.

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