J. Edward Murray, a foreign correspondent who covered World War II and later helped found the now-defunct Los Angeles Mirror, has died. He was 90.
Murray, who was the Mirror’s managing editor from 1948 to 1960, died Wednesday of natural causes at Frasier Meadows Health Care Center in Boulder, Colo., said his brother, Dan Murray of Santa Paula.
Murray was among a trio of journalists from United Press International contacted by Norman Chandler, then The Times’ publisher, to start the tabloid afternoon daily in 1948, said Mel Deans, copy desk chief of the Mirror from 1953 to 1960. The three were writers with little newspaper experience unafraid to try new ideas, Deans said.
At first, the Mirror was printed sideways -- with the fold at the top -- but it was soon converted to a traditional magazine-style format. Murray called the news reporters, almost all men, the “Mirrormen,” and if a story was reported by telephone, he ran it with a tiny picture of a phone and the words “A Mirrorfone interview.”
“There were all sorts of nutty things like that,” Deans said. “We were actually a pretty frivolous paper, but in later years, Murray didn’t like to admit that. The Mirror was based on big headlines to get people to buy it off the rack.”
In effect, Murray was editor of the paper because he held the top job in the newsroom, and his coverage of the sensational news the paper favored was aggressive, Deans said.
“He was a real good managing editor for the type of paper we had,” Deans said. “We ran big stories on fights, anything involving celebrities and various killers who were on the loose. It was a lot of fun.”
William F. Thomas, a former editor of the Los Angeles Times, who was a reporter at the Mirror, said Murray was “great. He was open to all things, energetic, and he was bright. He was continually frustrated, as we all were, working for a newspaper that finally went broke.”
The paper, which had by then become the Los Angeles Mirror-Daily News, folded in 1962.
As a foreign correspondent for UPI, Murray once had Christmas dinner with Winston Churchill, Britain’s prime minister, and his family. He also told stories of trying to safeguard his typewriter while under fire during the invasion of Normandy, his brother said.
An accomplished linguist, Murray was stationed in Paris, London and Rome for UPI from the late 1930s to 1948.
James Edward Murray, the second of six children of George and Eleanor Murray, was born April 16, 1915, on the family’s homesteaded cattle ranch near Buffalo, S.D. Growing up, he worked summers as a sheepherder at his grandfather’s South Dakota ranch.
In 1938, Murray graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and philosophy from the University of Nebraska and became a police reporter in Chicago before joining the wire service.
After leaving the Mirror, he became managing editor of the Arizona Republic and associate editor of the Detroit Free Press. In 1961, Murray served as president of the Associated Press Managing Editors Assn., and he led the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1972.
His last newspaper stint was at the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colo., where he was president and publisher from 1976 until 1982. After he retired, he worked as a volunteer consultant to journalists in 13 countries, including Bangladesh, Turkey and Kenya.
Barrie Hartman, a former Daily Camera editor, said in that newspaper’s obituary: “When you think about the golden age of journalism and the old rough, tough editor who fought for the little people against government tyranny, that was Ed Murray.”
In addition to his brother Dan, Murray is survived by another brother, a daughter and a son. Miriam, his wife of 63 years, died in 2003.