Norman Sandler, journalist, dies at 53

Norman Sandler, RIP

[see also my Norman Sandler Tribute Site at]

Norman Sandler was my roommate at MIT; he was class of 1975, I was class of 1974. He was executive editor of the MIT Newspaper, The Tech when I was editor-in-chief, during Volume 93. Norm lived in McGregor House at MIT; I lived in Student House. When I graduated, I moved into a two-bedroom apartment in Winthrop, Mass., near the airport. Dave Tenenbaum took the small bedroom, Sandler and I split the large bedroom. Two stories I remember: whenever we played tennis, if a jet plane from nearby Logan Airport passed over, Norm would look up and say, "I wish I were on that plane." During the year we were roomies, the classic Patrick McGoohan program The Prisoner was showed on Sunday nights. We would watch it together; every Sunday night as I turned off the TV, for 13 weeks, he would look at me and say, "I don't get it."

During that year in Winthrop, Norman was working on his master's thesis in political science, "28 years of looking the other way: Congressional oversight of the Central Intelligence Agency, 1947-1975." It was published by the Center for International Studies at MIT. He was in Washington working on his thesis. I had been laid off by the Associated Press a few months earlier. James Wieck, then Boston Comcenter manager at United Press International (UPI), called because a radio wire writer was out sick. Norm frequently filled in at the bureau. "I can do it," I said (even though I had only filed the radio wire twice in four months at AP--I spent the subway ride into Boston reading the UPI radio stylebook). Thus began the most exciting 18 months of my journalism career.

Sandler was the best man at my wedding, and although we drifted apart in latter years, I always considered him one of my best friends.

Norman was born and raised in Des Moines, where he started his UPI career. He also worked in the Boston bureau while he was MIT. He did a lot of radio work in his day and appeared frequently on political and news shows in Des Moines.

The pinnacle of any UPI career was assignment to either headquarters in New York City or the Washington Bureau, which did more original reporting than all the other bureaus combined. Norman began, as most newcomers did, on the overnight shift (Midnight to 8 am, roughly). He quickly rose to the number two position in the White House bureau, just behind the venerable Helen Thomas. Both President Reagan and President George H.W. Bush knew Norman; at the time, he was, along with the Associated Press correspondents, one of the most important reporters in the White House, guaranteed a question at every news conference and flying frequently on Air Force One.

After Clinton was elected, Sandler spent some time at Powell and Tate, a lobbying firm, before joining Motorola, which he left earlier this year. His long time marriage to Raeanne Hytone ended in divorce earlier this year. They had no children.

UPI owed him thousands of dollars in expenses at the time of the bankruptcy--or one of the bankruptcies. I don't know if he ever collected.

He will be sorely missed. He was the smartest, best-looking guy I knew. He was 53, and would have been 54 in September.

We don't yet know the cause of death; he was found dead in his apartment in Washington, D.C. and had apparently been dead for several days.