Editor Punctuates Q&A With Tip to Don Forst

Detroit News assistant managing editor Walter Middlebrook chats with his Alma Mater.

The latest alumnus to participate in Boston University’s career-advice Q&A series “Jump-Start Your Job Search” is Detroit News assistant managing editor Walter Middlebrook. He graduated from BU in 1976.

Middlebrook says that although his father, who raised him in the Deep South during the days of segregation, was not an educated man, dad taught him the “value of work, ethics and self-esteem.” That steerage set him on a steady path through journalism:

“It was that foundation that led me to the journalists who would help me find my way through the pitfalls of this industry. Those individuals are David Nimmer, former managing editor of the Minneapolis Star, who offered me my first full-time job; Deborah Howell, former Newhouse News Service Washington bureau chief and former managing editor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press; David Hamilton, former assistant managing editor of Newsday; and Don Forst, former editor of New York Newsday and the Village Voice. Probably the toughest S-O-B I ever worked for.”

When Forst passed away in 2014, The New York Times headline used the word “Feisty.” In the spirit of Middlebrook’s salty labeling, we dug through a few other clippings for some amplification. Here’s a great quote from the Newsday obituary:

“He was one of the most competitive newspaper people I knew, and wanted not only to beat the competition but to burn their houses, drive off their cattle and poison their wells,” said Tony Marro, the editor of Newsday from 1986 until 2002.

For the Village Voice, Anna Merlan recalled an infamous cover Forst was involved with in 1999 and also cited a tweet from Jen Snow, who remembered: ‘On my 1st day of work, as Don Forst’s assistant at the Village Voice, he said to me: “Exploit us, because we’re going to exploit you.” Love.’

Them Jump-Start series interviews are conducted by BU Today editor John O’Rourke, whose own journalism career began with a stint at The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.