Political journalist and author Jack Germond died Wednesday at his home in West Virginia. He was 85.
The longtime columnist died just as he'd finished writing a political novel titled A Small Story for Page Three, reports USA Today.
"He went peacefully and quickly after just completing this novel, a tale he had pondered while writing columns, campaign books, a memoir and covering our politics and politicians," his wife, Alice, said in a note to his colleagues, according to The Associated Press.
Germond had been a reporter since 1953, when he began at a local Missouri paper. He later rose to become political editor at the Washington Star, collaborated on a regular column with the journalist Jules Witcover for the Baltimore Sun, wrote books — including the autobiographical reminiscences Fat Man in a Middle Seat and Fat Man Fed Up — and gained a following with TV political commentary.
But Germond became best known after joining PBS' The McLaughlin Group, where he was a regular panelist for 15 years. He later ended the association with a pugnacious and short fax to the show's host, saying "Bye-bye," according to the AP.
He retired from writing columns in January 2001, telling NPR's Morning Edition at the time that he was just "sick" of politics, especially 2000 presidential candidates Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore. "It's the way the campaigns have become totally contrived programmed events," he said. "You don't get to know the candidates very well — the reporting on events is determined by the campaigns, rather than by any news standard."
Germond, along with Witcover and former AP political writer Walter Mears, was one of the characters featured in Timothy Crouse's The Boys on the Bus, a look at the life of political reporters during the 1972 presidential campaign, AP notes.
As for a life in journalism, Germond lamented the choices of young reporters who "want to start at the top" and cover national figures before learning the trade working for smaller papers. "Nobody wants to start at the Joseph City, Mo., Post-Review, which is where I started," he told NPR. "Covering city hall in a small city is a great story compared to covering Congress, which is a bore."
As Reuters reports, Germond noted that despite his extensive knowledge of modern politics, his appearance put off potential employers:
"While his writings and commentary were staples of Washington journalism, Germond said his looks and mannerisms sometimes worked against him.
"He said he once did not get a job because the executives saw 'a fat bald guy who looked unkempt even in a freshly pressed suit and a Brooks Brothers shirt, who played poker and the horses rather than golf, who didn't give dinner parties except for friends, and who sometimes drank too much. I was ... a cultural misfit.' "