Martin Tolchin, Former Times Correspondent and Founder of The Hill, Dies at 93

Martin Tolchin, a former reporter for The New York Times who covered Congress with a deep knowledge of twists and turns and power plays and who later served as publisher and editor The founder of The Hill, a successful newspaper devoted to events on Capitol Hill, died Thursday at his home in Alexandria, Va. He is 93 years old.

His partner, Barbara Rosenfeld, said the cause was cancer.

Tolchin left The Times in 1994 to lead The Hill, was given as a weekly newspaper for full coverage of the National Assembly. It immediately went head-to-head with an existing newspaper, the Roll Call, which has been featured on Capitol Hill twice a week since the 1950s.

Tolchin, 65 when he took the helm of The Hill, was hired by the newspaper’s owner, News Communications Inc., a New York City company with more than 20 community newspapers in Manhattan, Queens and its suburbs. of the city. Its chairman is a publisher and politically powerful real estate developer Jerry Finkelsteinfather of Andrew J. Stein, a former New York City Council president.

Some Washington insiders suspected that there was a market for the two publications on Capitol Hill, but Tolchin told The Washington Post, “We’re going to try to be smarter, bolder, and we Will try to have a soul, which I don’t think Roll Call does. The editors of Roll Call said they weren’t worried at all.

In fact, both papers, backed by lucrative advertising revenue, performed well, and when Mr. Tolchin retired from The Hill in 2003, each had a circulation of around 20,000, with most copies are available for free. A decade later, both were published on most days of Congress, with online versions attracting more readers.

Under Mr Tolchin, nothing was too “inside” for The Hill to cover, including news that a legislative aide had been assigned a new task or that a group representing potato growers had hired a lobbyist.

But The Hill also breaks down stories picked up by larger publications. For example, there was the report in 1997 of a failed uprising by a group of House Republicans against their combatant leader, Speaker Newt Gingrich. The report is the first sign that Mr. Gingrich’s time as a speaker may be coming to an end. (In fact, Mr. Gingrich announced in November 1998 that he will resign as a speaker and to leave Congress.)

Tolchin temporarily retired in 2006 to help found Politico, a website about politics.

He is also the author or co-author of nine books. Mostly about politics and government, written with his wife, Susan J. Tolchin, a political scientist who taught at George Mason University in Virginia. She died in 2016 at the age of 75.

Credit…New York Times

Mr. Tolchin reported from Washington for The Times from the early 1970s until the early 1990s. As a reporter for Congress, he documented major tax battles and volatile issues such as abortion.

He tried to summarize the legislative tactics he was reporting on. On a protracted budget clash in which House Democrats said they would refuse to put forward proposals and simply watch Republicans fight each other, he wrote that Their stance “reflects the new strategy of congressional Democrats – immobility”.

About a new generation of members In 1981, Mr. Tolchin described “a Congress full of young men with dry hair, who stay at home with computer prints and media advisers rather than with old-fashioned, personal politics. of the Speaker”.

He wrote about Howard H. Baker Jr.when he was one of the most powerful figures on Capitol Hill as the Republican leader in the Senate: “Short, shrug, he appeared to be a man lost and wandering. into the Senate. floor.”

Tolchin received the 1982 Everett McKinley Dirksen Award for Outstanding Congressional Reporting, which was given to the Republican Senate minority leadership during the 1960s.

Martin Tolchin was born in Brooklyn on September 20, 1928. He attended the University of Utah, earned a law degree from New York Law School, and served in the United States Army during the Korean War.

The Times hired him as a copywriter in 1954, and his first reporting assignment was for what was then known as women’s page. On the city desk in the years that followed, his reporting on problems in New York City’s hospital system led to investigations and several criminal cases, and he proposed deals with local politics and is the head of the City Hall office.

Mr. Tolchin was transferred to the Washington office in 1973. For more than two decades, his duties in the capital included running the White House of President Jimmy Carter.

The books he and his wife wrote, beginning in the 1970s, include “To Victor: Political Patronage from the Assembly to the White House” (1971), “Dump America: Rush to Dump it” deregulation” (1983) and “Houses of Glass: Congressional Ethics and Venom’s Politics” (2001).

A memoir, “Politics, Journalism, and the Way It Came: My Life at The Times, The Hill, and Politico,” was published in 2019.

In addition to Rosenfeld, Mr. Tolchin is survived by a daughter, Kay Rex Tolchin, and a grandson. A son, Charlie, is dead of cystic fibrosis in 2003 at age 34.

Alex Traub contributed reporting. Martin Tolchin, Former Times Correspondent and Founder of The Hill, Dies at 93

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