James Whelan, 79, the founding editor and publisher of the Washington Times, the newspaper established in 1982 by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his South Korea-based Unification Church, died Dec. 1 at his home in Miami.

Mr. Whelan was ousted after two years, saying it had become what its detractors had always said it was, "a Moonie newspaper."

The cause was multiple organ failure, his nephew Bill Halldin said.

Mr. Whelan was the vice president and editor of the Sacramento Union when he was recruited to run the Times.

About half the staff Mr. Whelan put together in 1982 was composed of church members, but it also included many veteran journalists, a number of whom had worked for the Washington Star, which had ceased publication the previous year. From the outset, the idea for the Times was to provide a conservative alternative to the Washington Post.

Over the next two years, Mr. Whelan helped build the paper's circulation to nearly 100,000, and although that was a fraction of the Post's, the Times commanded attention, not least because it was read daily by President Ronald Reagan, who often quoted from it.

In 1984, Mr. Whelan was fired. The paper cited a dispute over salary; Mr. Whelan attributed it to his distress over a loss of editorial independence. - N.Y. Times News Service