Sunday, May 10, 2009

Veteran newsman turns a page

Baltimore Sun
veterans celebrate
colleague's book

Author Luxenberg investigated
his own mother's secret

I had a vision tonight: A young Mickey Rooney rushes up the steps to the back door of the home of Will Englund and Kathy Lally in Baltimore’s leafy Roland Park neighborhood, spins around and declares to a crowd of party-goers, “Let’s put out a newspaper!”

Then the ghost of Judy Garland appears, and they do a 1939-vintage song-and-dance number while, out front, a horse-drawn wagon carries a Linotype machine up Hawthorne Road.

Will is one of The Baltimore Sun’s last Pulitzer Prize winners, and with reporter-wife Kathy Lally, had two tours as the storied newspaper’s Moscow Bureau. Their home was the setting for the party -- celebrating publication of the first book by longtime colleague Steve Luxenberg, “Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey Into a Family Secret.”

Co-hosts for the party, along with Steve’s wife Mary Jo Kirschman, were Francie Weeks and her husband Scott Shane, another former Moscow Bureau chief, who left The Sun to join the national staff of The New York Times. He wrote a book about the fall of the Iron Curtain – as a casualty of the information age.

The house and backyard were packed with talent representing the best of the newspaper’s foreign, national and local reporters over the last quarter-century, including Ann LoLordo, Arnold Isaacs, Antero Pietila, Mike Bowler, Dan Fesperman and his wife Liz Bowie, Jean Marbella, Eileen Canzian… and, not to name-drop, friends and former colleagues David Simon, creator of 'The Wire' among other post-newspaper accomplishments, and prolific novelist Laura Lippman.

In the blur of the joyous evening, forgive me if I’ve left out others. The talent that has passed through my old newsroom is amazing – and a few at the party are still there, holding on amid the white-knuckle downhill ride of American print journalism. Ann LoLordo, who was overseeing the editorial page and had jobs including Jerusalem Bureau chief during three decades at The Sun, was hurled out nearly two weeks ago without notice as the newspaper fired nearly a third of its news and editorial staff.

Luxenberg, a former Sun city editor who moved on to the Washington Post more than two decades ago, is one of the best news people I ever worked with. He was the editor who hired David Simon, a just-graduated University of Maryland newspaper editor and campus stringer for the Baltimore paper.

Sure there was nostalgia about newspaper days, and sadness at the upheaval making the future of print journalism uncertain at best. But mostly, the party was a great celebration for one of us who has taken a great next step in his life.

The family secret underlying “Annie’s Ghosts” was kept hidden by Steve’s mother, who until her death told just about everyone she had been an only child when, in fact, there had been an institutionalized sister.

Steve, who succeeded Bob Woodward as head of the Washington Post’s investigative and projects staff, delved into his own family’s mystery and emerged with a book that, coincidentally, was being celebrated on Mothers Day.

You can find out more about the book at, and hear Steve talk about the secret in an appearance at Baltimore’s Stoop Storytelling series at

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