Timothy S. Robinson, UPI reporter, dies


Published 10/9/2003 8:30 AM

WASHINGTON, Oct. 9 (UPI) — Timothy S. Robinson, a veteran reporter and editor who covered civil rights for United Press International and the Watergate trials for the Washington Post, as well as helping to build the National Law Journal into a major publication for lawyers, has died at the age of 58.

Robinson died Tuesday of complications of colon surgery.

At the time of his death he was editorial director for search and navigation at America On-Line, a post he had held since April.

He began work for UPI in the 1960s as a part-time staff member in Birmingham, Ala., while at the same time working as assistant state editor for the Birmingham Post-Herald.

Alvin Benn, a former UPI reporter in Birmingham from 1964-66, called Robinson a “remarkable man … a brilliant man.”

“He could discuss 19th century literature, rock blues lyrics, baseball statistics and movies without skipping a beat,” Benn said. “He was only a kid — about 18 or 19 — when he was assistant state editor at the Birmingham Post-Herald. Before he arrived for work each afternoon, he had already put in a full day of classes at Howard College, which now is Samford University.”

Robinson also was a content pioneer with Excite, chief producer at AltaVista, and director of network programming for NBCi.com, the gateway to the NBC network’s entertainment sites. Before that, he helped create and define the field of modern legal journalism, starting with legal affairs coverage for the Washington Post and then as editor in chief of the National Law Journal and the Los Angeles Daily Journal. He also served as a publishing executive for both organizations.

“Tim was a terrific and very versatile journalist who had a positive impact across the media,” said UPI Executive Editor Tobin Beck. “He will be greatly missed. He was very sharp, very competitive, but also warm and down to earth.”

Robinson started his journalism career in Alabama as a reporter for the Jasper Daily Mountain Eagle, assistant state editor of the Birmingham Post-Herald and as a weekend reporter and photographer for UPI. At a reunion of UPI reporters in Alabama in 2002, Robinson recalled the era and those who covered it.

“UPI’s coverage of the Civil Rights era was one of the best examples of the free press I’ve ever seen,” he said. “It gave young, aggressive reporters carte blanche to cover this like it was a real story, which it was. These were reporters who recognized a good story and then did the right thing.”

Robinson covered many of the major stories of the last half of the 20th century, including civil rights demonstrations in Alabama in the early 1960s, the Vietnam antiwar marches in Washington in the late ’60s and early ’70s, the Watergate scandal and resulting national security investigations in the mid-’70s, and the O.J. Simpson trial in Los Angeles in the 1990s.

Covering the federal courts for the Post starting in 1973, he ended up filing most of the Watergate trial coverage, before turning to investigative reporting on judicial and police corruption, and national security matters.

During his last years at the Post, Robinson also wrote a weekly legal column and was the recipient of a Ford Foundation Fellowship, earning a Master’s of Studies in Law from Yale Law School in 1979.

He is survived by his wife, Janet Andrew. Funeral services were scheduled for Saturday in Dora, Ala. Memorials may be sent to the Robinson Scholarship Fund at the First National Bank, P.O. Box 31, Jasper, Ala., 35502.

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