James Rainey’s touching tribute to recently-deceased reporter Eric Malnic appeared over the weekend in Rainey’s On The Media column.
Malnic loved the competition of newspapers. That’s why he paid off a bunch of cabbies to make themselves scarce at the Fresno airport, to get the jump on rival reporters flying in to cover an earthquake. That’s why he refused to accept that authorities had closed the scene of a fatal train collision to reporters. He rented a four-wheel drive to get there.
Historic front pages line a long first-floor hallway at the Los Angeles Times. Malnic has more bylines on that wall than almost anyone â€” besides the quakes and fires, his name tops accounts of the first Gulf War, the O.J. Simpson chase and the death of Princess Diana.
Many other stories on that wall don’t carry his name, but he wrote them. In an old newspaper tradition, the byline often goes to the reporters on the front line. Malnic often remained back in the newsroom, stitching dozens of updates and files together to make a compelling story. He was a rewrite man, one of the best of a small and honored band.
Malnic died last Tuesday at the age of 73, of complications resulting from surgery.