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Pioneering New York Times journalist dies

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From the Winter 2002 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 16.

From the Winter 2002 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 16.

Eileen Shanahan, a founding member of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, died on Nov. 2 in New York City. Shanahan is most noted for her groundbreaking journalism covering economic news.

Shanahan started her journalism career during the Korean War as an economic news reporter and moved to The New York Times in 1961. She was the first female Times reporter hired for assignments other than covering the First Ladies. She was also the only woman to cover the national economic policy beat in Washington.

In 1970, Shanahan was among the group of journalists who formed the Reporters Committee to provide legal assistance to journalists when their First Amendment rights come under fire.

“Eileen Shanahan was one of the first female journalists to recognize the need for a public interest group to advocate press rights,” said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee. “We are grateful that she and her colleagues had the foresight to form the Reporters Committee 31 years ago.”

Three years later, she was a plaintiff in a discrimination suit against the Times, seeking equal pay and assignments. The case was settled out of court in 1977, after Shanahan had left the Times. The Times paid $350,000 to settle the lawsuit and agreed to place women at all levels in every department of the paper.

During her career, Shanahan also worked as an assistant managing editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Washington Star and as a reporter for United Press International, the Research Institute of America and the Journal of Commerce. She was a speech writer for the Treasury Department in the Kennedy administration and assistant secretary for public affairs in the Health, Education and Welfare Department under Jimmy Carter.

Shanahan won two national awards for achievement in journalism: the University of Missouri Medal and the Colby College Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award.

Her husband, John V. Waits, a production executive at the Washington Daily News and the Washington Post, died in 1995. — HP