Harry Rosenfeld, Who Saw News in a ‘Third-Rate Burglary,’ Dies at 91

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He assigned Woodward and Bernstein to travel the Watergate break-in for The Washington Post and fended disconnected efforts to supplant them.

Harry Rosenfeld, right, the exertion   who oversaw The Washington Post’s sum  of the Watergate scandal, with the paper’s enforcement  editor, Benjamin C. Bradlee, left, and the histrion  Dustin Hoffman astatine  the premiere of the movie   “All the President’s Men.” Mr. Hoffman played the newsman  Carl Bernstein.  
Credit...The Washington Post, via Getty Images

Sam Roberts

Published July 22, 2021Updated July 23, 2021, 11:49 a.m. ET

Harry M. Rosenfeld, who injected his brash marque of journalism into The Washington Post, wherever helium oversaw the 2 reporters who transformed a section transgression communicative into the nationalist Watergate corruption ungraded that toppled the Nixon administration, died connected July 16 astatine his location successful upstate Slingerlands, N.Y. He was 91.

The origin was complications of Covid-19, his girl Amy Rosenfeld Kaufman said.

As The Post’s adjunct managing exertion for metropolitan news, Mr. Rosenfeld straight supervised Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein arsenic they mined secretive sources successful their follow-the-money unraveling of the Watergate break-in, which President Richard M. Nixon’s property caput had described arsenic a “third-rate burglary attempt” and which led to Mr. Nixon’s resignation successful 1974.

At 1 constituent Mr. Rosenfeld shielded the 2 reporters from attempts to region them from the communicative erstwhile its wide implications became apparent. The Post’s editor, Benjamin C. Bradlee, had sought to regenerate “Woodstein,” arsenic the duo were nicknamed, with Post veterans steeped successful authorities and politics.

As quoted successful Mr. Woodward’s and Mr. Bernstein’s publication “All the President’s Men” — a enactment delivered by Jack Warden playing Mr. Rosenfeld successful the 1976 movie mentation — Mr. Rosenfeld defended the reporters by asking Mr. Bradlee a rhetorical question.

“They’re hungry,” helium said. “You retrieve erstwhile you were hungry?”

The Post won a Pulitzer Prize for its Watergate coverage.

Mr. Rosenfeld’s jobs astatine The Post were sandwiched betwixt 18 years astatine The Herald Tribune successful New York and, opening successful 1988, a agelong tenure arsenic exertion of the Hearst Corporation’s 2 newspapers successful Albany, The Times Union and the day Knickerbocker News.

An migrant who had fled Nazi persecution successful Germany arsenic a youth, Mr. Rosenfeld joined The Herald Tribune arsenic a shipping clerk — a summertime occupation earlier assemblage — and was overseas exertion erstwhile the insubstantial folded successful 1966. He retired from The Times Union successful 1996 (the Knickerbocker News ceased work successful 1988), but continued to lend columns to the editorial page.

At The Post, the dynamics of pitching articles astatine communicative meetings were truthful robust that Doris Kearns Goodwin, successful her reappraisal of “All the President’s Men” successful The New York Times Book Review successful 1974, wrote that beyond the Watergate ungraded itself “there is simply a 2nd adjacent much almighty story” told successful the publication — astir the interior workings of a paper arsenic the editors “play the relation of authoritative and judge.”

“The reporters’ meetings with metropolis exertion Barry Sussman; metropolitan exertion Harry Rosenfeld; managing exertion Howard Simons, and enforcement exertion Benjamin Bradlee — to determine which stories would spell into people — are the champion parts of the book,” she wrote.

In his publication “From Kristallnacht to Watergate: Memoirs of a Newspaperman” (2013), Mr. Rosenfeld recalled proudly that astatine The Post helium was “part of a squad that took a mediocre paper and elevated it to greatness.”

While The Post’s publisher, Katharine Graham, called him “a existent leader of Watergate for us,” helium near the insubstantial successful 1978 aft helium was reassigned to edit the Outlook and Book World sections, which helium considered a downgrade.

Twelve years earlier, though, helium had jolted journalism successful decorous Washington with a nervy New York sensibility that made immoderate colleagues uncomfortable. Some inactive constituent to the sum of Debra (Muffin) Mattingly, a 14-year-old runaway from Arlington, Va., whose fellow had bashed her begetter to decease with a crowbar. Mr. Rosenfeld assigned six reporters to the communicative and pursued it arsenic it played retired for 18 months.

“I similar to accidental that erstwhile The Herald Tribune closed and helium moved to The Washington Post,” said Peter Osnos, a erstwhile Post newsman and editor, “he brought brash New York savvy to Washington earlier you could get a decent bagel there.”


Credit...Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Hirsch (Harry) Moritz Rosenfeld was calved connected Aug. 12, 1929, successful Berlin to Jewish parents from Poland, Sam Rosenfeld and Esther (Szerman) Rosenfeld. His begetter was a furrier. Although the household applied to emigrate to the United States arsenic aboriginal arsenic 1934, their exertion was not approved until March 1939, aft the Nazis had ransacked Jewish-owned businesses and torched the Rosenfeld family’s synagogue.

Mr. Rosenfeld went to Stuyvesant High School successful Manhattan and earned a bachelor’s grade successful American lit from Syracuse University successful 1952. He served successful the Army from 1952 to 1954 and aboriginal did postgraduate enactment successful past astatine Columbia University and successful poesy astatine New York University.

In summation to his girl Amy, helium is survived by his wife, Anne (Hahn) Rosenfeld, whom helium joined successful 1953; 2 different daughters, Susan Rosenfeld Wachter and Stefanie Rosenfeld; and 7 grandchildren.

There was not a “scrivener” among his ancestors, helium recalled successful his memoir, but successful his precocious schoolhouse yearbook helium chose journalism arsenic his imagination profession. In a vocation that helium said had been influenced by his puerility nether the Nazis, helium “discerned a taxable underpinning overmuch of my journalistic labors: holding to relationship the accountable, the much almighty the better.”

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