Journalism and COVID-19: Remembering Ward Harkavy

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: Ward Harkavy
Age: 72
Died: May 17, 2020
Location: Long Beach, NY
Work History:1New Times Staff, “Ward Harkavy, Former Phoenix New Times, Westword Journo, Has DiedPhoenix New Times, May 18, 2020.

  • Editor, The Village Voice
  • Managing Editor, Long Island Voice
  • Associate Editor, Westword
  • Associate Editor, Phoenix New Times
  • Reporter and Editor, Arizona Republic

Selected Remembrances:
“A true journalist, Ward had no favorites—he would call bullshit on anyone and everyone (including himself). But he would also deliver the hardest of facts with humorous insights—although in this particular case, W made it easy by providing the writer with such quotes as ‘Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.’”
—R.C. Baker, Senior Editor, The Village Voice [The Village Voice]

“Harkavy was raised in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and he never lost his down-home sensibility, his sense of humor, or his strong feeling that injustice had to be called out wherever he saw it.”
Patricia Calhoun, Editor, Westword [Westword]

“Of all the editors I’ve had over the years, Ward Harkavy might just be my absolute favorite, both as a journalist and as a human being. . . A world whose absurdities aren’t chronicled by Ward Harkavy doesn’t seem like a world at all; it’s a small comfort to know that the countless people who loved and admired him will do our part to pick up his mantle, but only a small one. Goodbye, Ward—the world has too few genuinely good people in it to lose you so soon.”
—Neil deMause, News Editor, The Village Voice [Field of Schemes]

“He was always level-headed and focused on the work. A brilliant line editor. He taught me that if you want to get your work published, you have to produce clean copy, really clean copy. He wouldn’t stand for bad reporting. He pushed reporters—if there was a hole, that hole had to be filled. Some editors might just write around it.”
—Terry Greene Sterling, affiliated faculty member at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and former Phoenix New Times writer [Phoenix New Times]

Selected Work:
Don’t Leave, George!The Village Voice, January 20, 2009.

“The Constitution says George W. Bush can’t remain in the White House past next week, but as we’ve learned during the past eight years, the Constitution is just a piece of paper. So it’s not too late to make a final plea: Bush, don’t leave us journalists hanging.

“Don’t pardon our behavior during the past eight years. Don’t make us commute our sentences. Bail us out. Don’t leave.”

Pesticides and PropagandaThe Village Voice, October 12, 1999.

“Nassau County officials, skilled at public relations, placed full-page ads in Newsday announcing the aerial spraying of Anvil, weather permitting. But the county was also required by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to publish a legal notice in Newsday that comes without the spin. You may have to squint to read the fine print of a legal notice, but it’s often worth the effort.”

The Castle on the HillWestword, May 11, 1994.

“The beautiful Victorian castle above Colorado Springs where blue-collar bluebloods live out their final days proves that highly skilled manual labor can produce stunning results. But as the people inside the castle can testify, even the finest craftwork doesn’t last forever.”

Get Serious About ParksPhoenix New Times, September 27, 1989.

“We know how to build streets. Oh, brother, we’ve got the experience there. Wish we paid as much attention to building parks. You’ve got to wonder about a city’s priorities when it has a specific five-year street-building plan, but parks are built catch-as-catch-can.”

Ode To The Remaining DesertPhoenix New Times, September 27, 1989.

“It’s too late to save the fragile Sonoran Desert in Phoenix. But it’s not too late to preserve what’s left of it. Spend a few hours at the Desert Botanical Garden, and you’ll know the desert is worth protecting.

“First step? The city must figure out the exact boundaries of its mountain preserves. No, that task has not been done.”