Cover image for Biographical dictionary of American newspaper columnists
Biographical dictionary of American newspaper columnists
Riley, Sam G.
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, [1995]

Physical Description:
xii, 411 pages ; 25 cm
Reading Level:
1080 Lexile.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN4871 .B57 1995 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

On Order



Newspaper columnists entertain and inform millions of readers each day, yet their lives and careers have received relatively little attention. This reference offers concise career profiles of some 600 columnists who write or have written for U.S. newspapers. It contains entries for all the giants in the field, plus other syndicated, self-syndicated, and local columnists. Included are columnists who have written on politics, humor, and topics of general interest.

What newspaper columnists have won the Nobel Peace Prize? What political columnist later became president of ABC-TV? What New York Times columnist won an unprecedented four Pulitzer prizes? This reference offers concise profiles of some 600 columnists who write or have written for U.S. newspapers. Included is a wealth of information about these influential writers who inform and entertain millions of Americans each day.

The volume contains entries for the giants in the field, plus other syndicated, self-syndicated, and local columnists. Included are columnists, living or dead, whose works contain fairly general reading matter, including politics and humor. Excluded are those who write columns on specialized topics, such as gardening, bridge, computers, and health. Entries are arranged alphabetically and show how these individuals became columnists and what later career paths many of them followed. When possible, entries conclude with bibliographies of works by and about the columnists.

Author Notes

SAM G. RILEY is Professor of Communication Studies at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. His previous books include The Best of the Rest: Non-Syndicated Newspaper Columnists Select Their Best Work (1993), Consumer Magazines of the British Isles (1993), Corporate Magazines of the United States (1992), (1990), Index to City and Regional Magazines (1989), Magazines of the American South (1986), and Index to Southern Periodicals (1986), all published by Greenwood Press.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Newspaper columnists hold an influential place in American society, informing and entertaining millions of readers daily around the country. Riley's dictionary provides information on 600 columnists who have written for U.S. newspapers from "the time men and women having this job description appeared in the U.S. papers in the Civil War to the present." The book's preface explains the author's criteria for selection. The giants of the field--the Nobel and Pulitzer winners, for example--are covered, as are local and self-syndicated columnists. "The selection of columnists," Riley explains, "was limited to those whose subject matter is of relatively general interest: political and humor columnists, plus those who variously describe their jobs as 'personal columnist,' 'op-ed columnist,' or 'general columnist.'" So excluded from this dictionary are those who write on specialized topics, such as health, computers, and gardening. Further, the compiler has interpreted the term "American newspaper columnist" loosely, for included are several foreigners, such as Mikhail Gorbachev and Carlos Fuentes, whose work has appeared in U.S. newspapers. The profiles are arranged alphabetically by surname and contain birth and death dates, a statement of the columnist's principal accomplishments, place of birth, education, a career summary, information about the nature of the column, a list of the earliest editions of all known books authored or edited by the columnist, and references to books about the columnist. For columnists who wrote under a pen name (e.g., Eppie Lederer as Ann Landers), the entry appears under the actual name with references provided from the pen name in the index. Entries run from three to four lines for lesser-known columnists to more than 50 lines for the famous and are factual in content, with no effort by the compiler to explain the impact of the columnist's writing on American society. The selected bibliography is arranged by author and consists of books used in the dictionary's compilation. Riley is a professor of communications studies at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and has previously published several reference books on journalism for Greenwood. Two volumes in Gale's Dictionary of Literary Biography series, American Newspaper Journalists, cover from 1690 to 1960 [RBB N 15 94]. Entries there are much longer than in this new book, but the series covers all sorts of journalists, not just columnists, and doesn't extend to contemporary columnists. This new work contains useful information on many journalists who are not included in the standard biographical dictionaries and so will be useful to students and scholars interested in the history of mass communications. Recommended for academic and research libraries. (Reviewed December 1, 1995)

Choice Review

Biographical sources on journalists, rare in reference publishing, have focused on newspeople well established by historical standards or currently among the more visible stars. To date, the most comprehensive sources include the DLB volumes American Magazine Journalists (also edited by Riley) covering 1741-1850 (CH, Apr'89), 1850-1900 (CH, Sep'89), and 1900-60 (CH, Nov'90 and Feb'95); American Newspaper Journalists covering 1690-1872 (1985), 1873-1900 (CH, Jun'84), 1901-25 (1984), and 1926-50 (1984); and American Newspaper Publishers, 1950-1990 (CH, Jul'94). The present dictionary sets itself apart by profiling an elite group of journalists: 600 American newspaper columnists, some local, others self-syndicated, from the Civil War to the present. Riley's well-crafted (if occasionally subjective) sketches are arranged alphabetically and contain as applicable birth and death dates, accomplishments, education, career summary, column information, publications, and references. Ambrose Bierce is remembered as "the most bitter, caustic, and misanthropic of all America's humorists," while Mike Royko has "mellowed somewhat" but "still manages to raise hackles." One expects to find Buckley, Bombeck, Pyle, Quindlen, and Reston, but there are many surprises: Ed Sullivan, James Thurber, Eugene McCarthy, and Mikhail Gorbachev, to name a few. The general index lists personal names, newspapers, and news services. Riley writes, "The column is a sort of intersection where journalism and literature sometimes meet, or at least brush by one another at close range" and believes that "columnists have contributed mightily to both the fiction and non-fiction of America." Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. J. Cates formerly, Northwestern University

Table of Contents

American Newspaper Columnists
Selected Bibliography