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Deborah Howell — my competitor, adviser and friend

What a sad way to start 2010 for the Minnesota journalism community — learning that Deborah Howell had been killed in a traffic accident while vacationing in New Zealand.

Many in the Twin Cities community worked more closely with Deborah than I did; John Camp has written a remembrance of her for MinnPost that you can read here.

For most of the nine years that I was the editor of the Star Tribune, Deborah was my competition. So I didn’t see her that often, but I felt her presence every day — because she was a tough, aggressive journalist, and we always knew that she would be on top of the big stories and digging for undiscovered ones. 

Deborah also became my friend, and I followed her post-Minnesota career with interest, including her stint as ombudsman for the Washington Post, which is one of the most difficult jobs in journalism because you have to confront, in public, the mistakes and misjudgments of your own colleagues.

When we launched MinnPost in 2007, Deborah immediately became an adviser and generous donor. Just a month ago, we elected her to the MinnPost board of directors; she attended one meeting, by phone. She had agreed to appear in MinnRoast in April, and I was really looking forward to that.

I hope the rest of 2010 turns out better for all of us than this first weekend has been for the many people who knew and admired Deborah Howell.

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