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Dan Meyers, 65, former Inquirer journalist of passion, compassion

When Philadelphia politicians made promises in the 1980s and '90s, Inquirer reporter Dan Meyers made sure they kept them. He called them out. Constantly, but fairly.

Dan Meyers.
Dan Meyers.Read more

When Philadelphia politicians made promises in the 1980s and '90s, Inquirer reporter Dan Meyers made sure they kept them.

He called them out. Constantly, but fairly.

Mr. Meyers brought that tactic when reporting on Denver's shiny new airport in 1995. He showed up for a test flight with a pair of skis, a box of Twinkies, two 40-watt lightbulbs, and six Grade-A eggs. He just wanted to make sure the high-tech baggage system worked as advertised.

"Of the six eggs, one suffered grievous injury; the others were inviolate," he wrote in a 1,236-word story published the next day. Dateline: ABOARD FLIGHT 1471.

And when an Inquirer colleague suffered a fatal heart attack on the job at age 41, Mr. Meyers took it upon himself to assure that the family got through it.

"He was a tremendous friend. He gave of himself so readily and he was always the guy you could count on," said former Inquirer reporter Howard Goodman, now an editorial writer at the Palm Beach Post. "If anybody was in need of any sort of help, he would step right in and take charge of things."

Mr. Meyers, 65, a former Inquirer City Hall bureau chief who later worked at the Denver Post and Colorado Public Radio, died Monday morning, Dec. 19, in his Washington Square apartment following an eight-year battle with colon cancer.

A Chicago native, Mr. Meyers grew up in the Boston area and earned a bachelor's degree in American studies and politics from Brandeis University, where his father taught. He also held a master's in journalism from Northwestern University, directed communications at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and worked for the University of Denver and Temple University.

"You could always count on him to be there," said Goodman's wife, Ellen, who flew from Florida to help care for Mr. Meyers in recent weeks. "He was just an inspiration on how to be a mensch. I learned how to be a good friend from watching Dan over the years."

Mr. Meyers commanded respect for his decency and dogged reporting, even from some of the officials who drifted into his crosshairs.

"Dan was an outstanding journalist. He was smart, tough, knowledgeable, but fair," said David L. Cohen, senior executive vice president of Comcast Corp., Mayor Ed Rendell's chief of staff from 1992 to 1997.

"As a frequent subject of his reporting and editing, I can say that I was equal parts frustrated with his coverage, but in the end in awe of his journalistic integrity," Cohen said. "And I think that's the ideal balance for a great journalist. Our city will miss him."

Inquirer editor William K. Marimow described Mr. Meyers as a "great reporter and a warmhearted, generous colleague."

"As the Inquirer's City Hall bureau chief in the early 1990s, he consistently wrote stories that broke major news, and he dissected with skill the differences between the words and actions of our political leaders," Marimow said.

Marimow recalled how Mr. Meyers stepped in when reporter Richard Burke died of a heart attack while working in the New Jersey Statehouse press room in 1993.

"Dan did everything possible to arrange a memorial service for his friend, initiate a scholarship fund for Burke's two young children, and to make sure that his family was taken care of during the difficult weeks that followed," he said.

Mr. Meyers, who played softball, golf, tennis, and, according to his LinkedIn page, "any sports my knees can still handle," was known for a combination of leadership and selflessness that brought out the best in the journalists whose work he edited.

"He was committed to his profession because he saw the good it could do. And when he left reporting to be an editor, he became, almost instinctively, a natural mentor, in a lovable-but-smarter-big-brother sort of way," said Howard Saltz, publisher and editor-in-chief of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, who worked with Mr. Meyers at the Denver Post.

"He didn't demand, he encouraged. He got his journalists to do better because they knew he was right. He inspired others to do their best. And he did so always with humor and humanity."

A search of the Inquirer's database shows 1,328 Dan Meyers bylines - not just government and politics, but book reviews, features, travel pieces. In January 1993, Mr. Meyers introduced Rendell's low-key financial adviser F. John White as "deceptively important" and "like a perfect spy, someone who is noticed but not too much."

Mr. Meyers described how White was standing beside Rendell at a news conference, "silently, alertly, hands slightly curled as though he might have to fend off ripe fruit at any moment. He tries to maintain a stern demeanor, befitting the grave problems he's supposed to help solve, but a half-grin soon sneaks onto his wide face; he looks like a sentry struggling to suppress a joke just as the general walks by." The story was 2,544 words long, and each word seemed essential.

"He just never quit hustling," said WHYY senior reporter Dave Davies, a longtime friend. "He had this buoyant confidence and optimism that just carried through - whether he was reporting or writing a story or running down a fly ball in left field."

Mr. Meyers is survived by his former wife, Sondra Lee, and their son, Jackson Lee Meyers. Memorial services will be set in Philadelphia and Denver.

"Dan was a committed reporter and editor," Saltz said, "but above all he was a gentleman. Always."