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Obituary: James 'Hap' Hairston / Ex-editor at Newsday, Daily News

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

By The Associated Press

James "Hap" Hairston, a former Newsday and Daily News editor who was known for inspiring reporters and sharpening their copy one line at a time, has died, apparently of a heart attack. He was 53.

Mr. Hairston was found dead Saturday at his mother's home in Pittsburgh, where he had moved months ago to care for his ailing mother, family members said. Mr. Hairston had struggled with his health since suffering a heart attack in 1996.

Mr. Hairston worked for about 10 years at Newsday, serving as Nassau County editor and later as city editor of the fledgling New York Newsday -- where he played a central role in the city's tabloid wars of the 1980s.

In 1989, Mr. Hairston moved to the rival Daily News, where he served as city editor, metro editor and assistant managing editor. He helped direct Daily News columnist Mike McAlary's Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the Abner Louima police torture case.

"Hap had a brilliant mind, a quick wit and was a superb editor," said Managing Editor Bill Boyle. "He will be missed by all those he worked with."

Daily News reporter Austin Fenner remembered Mr. Hairston as an editor with the ability to improve each story he was handed, sometimes one line at a time.

"He inspired me to do great work. When you were tired, he was the guy who raised the bar."

Apparently, he fit the part. In 1994, Mr. Hairston played himself as an extra in the Michael Keaton film "The Paper."

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