Eric Morgenthaler, a well-known Wall Street Journal reporter known for his quirky stories and leads, such as the 1979 lead about a steel producer, has died at the age of 72.
Morgenthaler died in Kansas City on Friday due to a rare form of bone marrow cancer.
It was Morgenthaler who in 1979 began a story by writing, “This is the story of the western world’s 27th-largest steel producer. Oh, read it anyway.”
Morgenthaler, who had a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in international relations from Georgetown University, began working as a reporter in the Dallas bureau of the Wall Street Journal, followed by stints as a Journal correspondent in Pittsburgh and London, and as the Journal’s bureau chief in Denver, Atlanta and Miami.
Longtime friend Russell Etling wrote on Facebook: “His undying friendship, dry humor, intelligence and old-world elegance were a gift to us all.”
In 1991, Morgenthaler’s profile of Cuban-American Pedro Zamora, who was suffering from AIDS, drew attention to the disease. Morgenthaler followed up in 1994 with another story about Zamora shortly before he died.
In late 1994, Morgenthaler was laid off from his position as Miami bureau chief shortly after receiving a letter recognizing his 25 years of service to the paper. He told Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post, “I was highly aware that this was the type of position they could easily knock out. I’ve been around long enough that I know how corporations work.”
Former Journal reporter Roger Cohen wrote in the New York Times in 2008 about how Morgenthaler chastised him for his trip accommodations to Brazil in 1986.
“The Wall Street Journal,” Morgenthaler said with a certain class and solemnity, “flies first class.”
In 1973, Kansas Gov. Robert Docking and other Kansans wrote letters to The Journal complaining about Morgenthaler’s letter about the state’s tourism efforts. The story was headlined,, “Hey, You! Wanna See a Big’ Bali of Twine? Or a Hand-Dug Well?”
James C. Treat, Sr., of Overland Park, wrote: “I have suffered a hurt. The paper I like best has been unkind to the state I like best… In Kansas we find joy in a sunset, beauty in the land, faith in the people — and fun in a ball of string!”