Ex-Herald political editor McDermott dies

Published: Sunday, January 12, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 11, 2003 at 10:16 p.m.
MIAMI - John McDermott, The Miami Herald's former political editor whose support of open government helped lead to Florida's Sunshine Laws, has died. He was 86.
McDermott died in his sleep Friday at a Fort Lauderdale hospice, The Herald reported Saturday.
As the newspaper's political editor from 1952 to 1980, McDermott covered six presidents and hundreds of local and state elected officials.
"He believed that the way to cover a political campaign was to be at the elbow of the candidate as he went from town to town and crowd to crowd," said Tom Fiedler, the newspaper's executive editor. "He had an understanding of who the politicians were, in a more textured way than what a lot of us understand today."
But his friendly nature with politicians did not stand in the way of his protection of a free press, Fiedler said.
In 1967, the state Senate wanted to take up Florida's redistricting plan in secret, but McDermott and three other reporters refused to leave. Bailiffs carried them out of the Senate press gallery, with pictures of the incident being published in newspapers across the state.
"We simply got fed up with the Florida Senate conducting the public business - a business of the state - behind closed doors," McDermott said at the time.
Fiedler said the imagery from this incident helped spur legislative reformers to push for laws now on the books that require legislators to conduct their business in public.
McDermott, a native of Vermont, graduated from the University of Georgia and was a correspondent in Europe during World War II. He spent five years as bureau chief of United Press International in Berlin after the war, then reported from the Middle East before being recruited to The Herald.
McDermott is survived by his wife, Violeta, and his three stepchildren: Violeta, Raul and Silvia.

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