Sara Fritz dies at 68; former Times journalist

Sara Fritz dies at 68; former Times journalist
Sara Fritz won the Everett McKinley Dirksen Award for best reporting on Congress for “What’s Wrong with Congress,” a series of four articles. (Los Angeles Times)

Sara Fritz, an award-winning journalist who covered politics on Capitol Hill for more than three decades, including 14 years at the Los Angeles Times, died Wednesday in Washington, D.C. She was 68.

Fritz developed a lung infection after successful hip surgery and was hospitalized for more than month, said her husband, James A. Kidney. She was removed from life support at George Washington University Hospital after her family and doctors agreed she would not recover from the debilitating infection.

Known as a determined and energetic reporter, Fritz joined the Washington staff of The Times in 1983 and rose to investigative editor a decade later.

In 1989, she won the Everett McKinley Dirksen Award for best reporting on Congress for "What's Wrong with Congress," a series of four articles examining the failures and foibles of the legislative branch.

She was also a member of a Times team that won the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting from Harvard University for stories on foreign donors to 1996 Democratic campaigns.

"Sara had a sharp eye, a deep sense of perspective and a Rolodex full of sources who trusted her judgment and integrity," Washington Post political correspondent and former Times correspondent Karen Tumulty said Thursday. "There was no subject that she couldn't master — from healthcare to foreign policy to the sources of dysfunction and the corruption in our political system."

The daughter of an advertising executive, Sara Jane Fritz was born in Pittsburgh on Dec. 16, 1944. After graduating from Denison University in Ohio in 1966 with a degree in English, she began her career at the Pittsburgh Press as a copy editor.

In 1969, she moved to United Press International in Pittsburgh as a night editor. Over the next decade, she was promoted to UPI bureau chief in Harrisburg, Pa., weekend news editor in the Washington bureau and national labor reporter. She covered Watergate and the resignation of President Nixon.

In 1978, she was hired at U.S. News & World Report and covered the attempted assassination of President Reagan in 1981 as the magazine's chief White House correspondent.

Among the major stories she covered at The Times were the Iran-Contra hearings and the Whitewater controversy.

After leaving The Times in 1997, she was managing editor of Congressional Quarterly and Washington bureau chief for the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times.

In 2000, her 12-year-old son, Daniel, committed suicide. She wrote a moving story about his struggles and the broader issues of child suicide and survivors' grief that was published in the St. Petersburg Times in 2003.


She and her husband created a website,, to share information with other parents about the symptoms and treatment of depression in young people.

Besides her husband, she is survived by a daughter, Mary, of Chicago; and two sisters, Marjorie Henderson of Loveland, Ohio, and Judy Farr Demitras of Pittsburgh.