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Mackin, Catherine (1939–1982)

Mackin, Catherine (1939–1982)

American journalist who was the first woman to serve as a network television floor reporter at the national political conventions . Name variations: Cassie Mackin. Born Catherine Patricia Mackin in Baltimore, Maryland, on August 28, 1939; died in Towson, Maryland, on November 20, 1982; daughter of Francis Michael Mackin and Catherine Gillooly Mackin; attended public schools in Towson, Maryland; University of Maryland, B.A., 1960; selected as a Nieman fellow in 1967 and enrolled in Harvard University's "Great Lectures" program.

Born on August 28, 1939, in Baltimore, Maryland, Catherine Mackin, known as Cassie,

was the third daughter of Francis Mackin and Catherine Gillooly Mackin . She was raised in suburban Towson, the town, she later observed, that "gave the world Spiro Agnew." Mackin graduated magna cum laude from the nearby University of Maryland in 1960 with a degree in journalism and moved quickly into a job at the Washington bureau of the Hearst family newspapers. Although she was interested in television work and had many opportunities to move into broadcasting, she felt that newspaper work was more rewarding.

Selected in 1967 as a Nieman fellow, Mackin enrolled in the "Great Lectures" program at Harvard University during the 1967–68 academic year. Her course of study at Harvard included lectures by a German-born professor named Henry Kissinger, who was at that time little known outside of Cambridge. After her studies at Harvard, Mackin returned briefly to Hearst's Washington bureau as an urban affairs correspondent. In 1969, she switched to television journalism by joining the staff of Washington's NBC affiliate, WRC-TV, where she spent two years as an investigative reporter and the anchorwoman of a local news broadcast. From 1971 to 1973, while remaining based in Washington, she took on the responsibilities of a general assignment reporter for the network.

Mackin won national recognition in 1972 when she became the first female television floor reporter at the national political conventions. She had moved up the ladder within NBC's news organization at a break-neck pace, a turn of events that she later attributed mostly to luck, although she said she thought her newspaper training had helped her make the most of that luck. Mackin attributed her quick metamorphosis from local newscaster to a floor reporter at the national conventions to the solid training she had received in reporting during her newspaper days. "I could honestly say that I had prepared for [the conventions] all my life," she explained. "It began at the supper table, where my family would talk about politics."

In 1973, Mackin was named a congressional correspondent for NBC, concentrating on the Senate. Although she faithfully reported their deliberations on a daily basis, Mackin never took senators or members of congress too seriously, and noted that the Capitol was "the only place where you'll never hear anyone say, 'I said that first.'" The years she spent in the political trenches were turbulent ones, beginning with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and continuing on to the Watergate scandal and the subsequent resignation of another president, Richard Nixon. Throughout her career, Mackin, a member of the Women's National Press Club and the White House Correspondents Association, maintained a bipartisan outlook on the stories she covered. She was a master of professional detachment, able to handle emotional stories and tough deadlines with equal cool-headedness. Asked to single out what she considered her best stories, she responded: "I always hope my best stories are ahead of me."

While working in Washington, Mackin for several years made her home in a ninth-floor apartment at Watergate West, part of the apartment/office complex that figured prominently in the undoing of the Nixon presidency. Living at the Watergate was akin to living in a fishbowl since tourists visiting the nation's capital flocked to the complex to snap photos of its scandal-tinged nameplate. Mackin continued to work for NBC as a congressional correspondent until 1977, when she was hired by ABC as a Washington correspondent. Five years later, Catherine Mackin died of cancer at the age of 43 in Towson, Maryland.

sources:

Buursma, Bruce. "Catherine Mackin: Reporting from Capitol Hill," in Grand Rapids Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan). January 19, 1975.

Newsweek. October 16, 1972, November 29, 1982.

Time. March 21, 1977, November 29, 1982.

Don Amerman , freelance writer, Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania

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