One of the top journalists of our generation is retiring this week. And you may not even know her.
She covered the Manson family trial. The trials of O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson. She is Linda Deutsch, and she has been a witness to history for nearly 50 years.
Linda is the definition of a pure, honest. ethical journalist. In the courtoom, Deutsch only reports the facts. She does not speculate or offer conjecture. Her reports were written in such a detailed, vivid manner that the reader felt they were in the courtroom with her. Despite covering dozens of criminal trials, she never hardened or became cynical. She truly believed in "innocent until proven guilty." I saw her become annoyed with reporters who presumed Night Stalker Richard Ramirez was guilty before the verdict.
I was honored to be her co-worker and her backup crime reporter at AP's Los Angeles bureau. She was my mentor who taught me more how to cover a news story than anyone else I have met in the news business. I watched in awe as she ran from the courtroom with a breaking verdict and perfectly dictated a Page One story off the top of her head to the editor without notes or a TelePrompter.
She was competitive and aggressive to make sure AP had the story first. And they mostly did.
Linda believed in justice. Though it was easy for some to revile O.J. Simpson, Linda let the evidence play out without prejudice. She was so fair in her reporting that she actually received phone calls from O.J. and Michael Jackson after their trials.
Deutsch taught me deadline pressure. You don't know what it is until you have three AP editors standing right behind you, as I did, while you're writing a story saying, "Hurry up. The New York Times is holding a page for your story." Linda taught me to be calm and how to handle the demands of being an AP writer.
Covering criminal courts is taxing. The legal jargon is complex and on a personal note, it's not easy spending your day every day with accused murderers, serial killers, rapists and pedophiles. You also witness the anguish of the victims' families as they hear details of how their loved ones were killed. Linda also taught me to take time for myself. When I worked with her, she made sure to take a month-long vacation each year to recharge.
For 48 years, Linda Deutsch held a bright candle for The Associated Press. She taught us what true reporting and journalism are truly about.
She is retiring now. But not quietly. Her memoirs are in the works. I will be among the first to read them.
Solid writing. Reporting. Ethics. Integrity. Competitiveness. Fairness.
Thank you, Linda, for making me and journalism better.