Greenfield, Meg (1930–1999)

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Greenfield, Meg (1930–1999)

American journalist and editor who was a longtime columnist for The Washington Post and Newsweek. Born on December 27, 1930, in Seattle, Washington; died on May 13, 1999, in Washington, D.C.; daughter of Lewis and Lorraine (Nathan) Greenfield; Smith College, B.A., 1952; Fulbright Scholar, Newnham College, Cambridge (England) University, 1952–53; never married; no children.

A Pulitzer Prize-winning editor and writer, and the editorial voice of The Washington Post from 1979 until her death in 1999, Meg Greenfield not only raised the bar for women journalists, but set a new standard for the editorial pages of American newspapers. "She shaped the editorial page of the Post in a highly personal way—independent and strong but respectful of others' opinions," said publisher Donald E. Graham. "On the ethics of our business she was the Supreme Court, as far as I was concerned."

Meg Greenfield was born in Seattle, Washington, in 1930, and graduated summa cum laude from Smith College in 1952, after which she spent a year at Cambridge University in England as a Fulbright Scholar. Greenfield worked for 11 years on the old Reporter magazine before joining the Post in 1968 as an editorial writer. She worked her way steadily through the ranks, serving as deputy editor of the editorial page from 1970 to 1979, then moving up to editor. From 1974 to 1999, Greenfield was also a columnist for Newsweek magazine. She won a Pulitzer Prize in 1978 for her editorials on social policy.

Greenfield voiced opinions on some of the great turmoils and scandals of her time, from Watergate to Monicagate, never once losing sight of the frailties of the human condition. "I am to this day, even given the uncountable number of scuzzy public betrayals and lies, much more comfortable when a scoundrel eludes us or we miss the scent, than when we are pursuing someone who shouldn't be charged," she wrote in a Newsweek column in November 1998. In a style that was called "textured" and "elaborate," Greenfield urged her readers to look at the facts for answers to any debate. "The principal occupational hazard of editorial writer," she once said, "is 'Mussolini-ism': censorious tone; circular logic; and an instruction that is probably entirely unrealistic and impractical."

Greenfield remained on the job even while battling the lung cancer that took her life on May 13, 1999. "She called on those of us who work in government to pursue far-sighted public policy and bipartisan solutions," said President Clinton following her death. "Her voice of eloquence and reason will be sorely missed."


"Obituaries." The Boston Globe. May 14, 1999.

"Obituaries." The Day [New London]. May 14, 1999.

"People in the News," U.S. News & World Report. Vol. 126, no. 20. May 24, 1999, p. 16.

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Greenfield, Meg (1930–1999)

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