Journalism and COVID-19: Remembering Tom Blackburn

This journalist profile is part of Journalism and COVID-19: The Toll of a Pandemic, PEN America’s project covering the toll of the coronavirus crisis on the journalism industry in the United States. Our hearts go out to the family members and friends of the journalists lost during the pandemic.

Name: Tom Blackburn
Age: 86
Died: January 2, 2021
Location: Haverhill, FL
Work History:1Lucy Grindon, “Tom Blackburn, former NCR journalist, dies at 86National Catholic Reporter, January 12, 2021; Larry Keller, “Tom Blackburn, longtime Palm Beach Post editorial writer, dies at 86 after bout with COVID-19The Palm Beach Post, January 5, 2021.

  • Columnist and Contributor, National Catholic Reporter
  • Assistant News Editor, National Catholic Reporter
  • Editorial Writer and Columnist, The Palm Beach Post
  • Books Editor, The Palm Beach Post
  • Staff, The Miami News

Selected Remembrances:
“He read about everything. “It was like having Google in your pocket before Google existed. It’s impossible to replicate who he was as a human being. Not many people are interested in so many topics.”
—Stephen Blackburn, son of Thomas Blackburn [The Palm Beach Post]

“He was beloved among the staff because he was a marshmallow. He was a brilliant man. For all his brilliance, he could crack you up.”
—Lou Ann Frala, former Bridge team editor, The Palm Beach Post [The Palm Beach Post]

“I always looked forward to calling Tom with a story idea because he was the kind of curious editor who was clearly interested in what was happening on campus in those days. And I knew the story would end up better in print than it was when I filed it.”
—Bill Mitchell, Publisher, National Catholic Reporter [National Catholic Reporter]

“If there is one thing I would stress, anybody in any profession should be lucky enough to have a colleague like Tom. He introduced me to so many things I otherwise wouldn’t have thought about. Tom was such an honorable man. There aren’t enough people in the world like Tom Blackburn. He made us all better.”
—Randy Schultz, former editorial page editor and managing editor, The Palm Beach Post [The Palm Beach Post]

“He was profoundly ethical and moral. He was always going to Mass, always thinking about feeding the poor – all those things that Christ wanted. He was not judgmental of ordinary people. He was judgmental of leaders who let down ordinary people.”
—Jac Wilder VerSteeg, Deputy Editorial Page Editor, The Palm Beach Post [The Palm Beach Post]