Media News

Sanford, longtime WSJ staffer who wrote his own obituary, has died

January 30, 2023

Posted by Chris Roush

David Sanford

David Sanford, who in 1995 told his Wall Street Journal colleagues that he would die from AIDS in the next year but who retired from the paper in 2015, died earlier this month.

He had been at the paper for 35 years.

In 1997, Sanford and Michael Waldholz of The Journal won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting for the coverage of the struggle against AIDS in all of its aspects, the human, the scientific and the business, in light of promising treatments for the disease.

In 1996, Sanford wrote about how he told Journal managing editor Paul Steiger about his illness:

The something I decided to do was to tell my boss, John Brecher, the Page One editor, and Paul Steiger, the managing editor of the Journal, that I had AIDS. I could see the slide I was on, and I didn’t want to have to lie about workdays missed and possible hospitalizations. Besides, I assumed that because I was so haggard they must already know.

Remembering what my doctor had said, I was also sure that they had heard all about it from our group insurer. For a while I did pay for my T-lymphocyte subset tests myself. But when I began taking AZT, I started to file for everything, and last November I told my doctor to begin writing AIDS — not “viral infection” — as the diagnosis on insurance forms. Call it another step in my coming-out process.

I wrote a difficult letter to John and to Paul. “I need to tell you this directly. I have AIDS,” I wrote. “I do not know how long I have to live, and I am ripe for AIDS-related diseases. But I would like to continue working on Page One as long as I am making a contribution and am trusted to do good work.” I concluded it: “This is a bummer, I realize, and I am sorry to add it to your burdens.”

Subscribe to TBN

Receive updates about new stories in the industry daily or weekly.

Subscribe to TBN

Receive updates about new stories in the industry.