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Mary Linn White, 1922-2006: 'A Passion for Journalism'

In simple language, newspaper work was Mary Linn DeBeck White’s life.

Date: 11/14/2006
By: Britt Kennerly
Phone: (513) 556-8577
In simple language, newspaper work was Mary Linn DeBeck White’s life.

And in a time when many female journalists were relegated to writing obituaries or "fluff," White's nose for news and love for the chase of it stood out.

White, a 1944 Phi Beta Kappa Economics graduate, died Nov. 4 at age 84.

She carved the base of a solid journalism career at the News Record, where, as the paper's editor in 1944, she and staff covered a scarlet fever outbreak on the UC campus. She went to work at the Cincinnati Post and, then, in 1948, married attorney Byron White. After leaving the Post in the 1950s to raise her children, White came back to the Post in 1970 to cover for a reporter on maternity leave.

Seventeen years later, her "temporary assignment" ended with her retirement, and in 1995, she was inducted into the Cincinnati Journalism Hall of Fame.

She did it all – news, features or whatever the day's news brought her way.

"She was a real firebrand," said Lora Linn Swedberg, one of White’s three children. "She did cover fashion, and on her last ‘tour of duty,’ she did a society column, but she never really liked fluff. Whatever she did, though, she did her best."

In 2005, when UC’s journalism degree was introduced and the 100th anniversary of the News Record was celebrated, White was back on campus sharing her love of newspapering. "I loved the pace of the work, the excitement, the challenge," she told UC Magazine. "Most, I think, I liked the power of writing, being trusted to analyze a situation and turn it into a story. I loved seeing my words in the newspaper."

And up until the last few days of her life, it was evident White still loved words used correctly, reading and doing crossword puzzles: "She was still shaking her head over grammatical errors," said Swedberg.

From the News Record to Newsweek magazine, White had zero tolerance for mistakes, her daughter said. She retired in her 60s "because her hearing was going and she was afraid she'd make mistakes," said Swedberg.

"She had a passion for journalism, and I use that word correctly. She lived and breathed it. She was still interested in hot stories, and even after she retired, she submitted things from time to time. It was really the News Record that launched that interest."

A journalism scholarship in White’s name was established earlier this year. White was, her daughter said, happy about that.

It's only right, it seems, that the veteran journalist's story continues.

"We thought this would be a fitting way to honor her, and to also help a journalism student," said Swedberg, whose father died in July 2006.

"She was excited that there’s now a degree – she was happy about that, and seeing the new high-tech facility for the News Record. All of those emotions, and her story, were what started us thinking about this and wanting to pursue it. Our dad was very excited about it, too."

The Cincinnati Post tribute to Mary Linn DeBeck White is found here.

Learn details on a celebration service for Mary Linn DeBeck White.

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