By Robert Mann
Louisiana has lost another one of its great journalists.
Ed Anderson, the longtime New Orleans Time-Picayune Capitol correspondent, was a reporter’s reporter. He was tireless, dogged, skeptical, fair, kind and funny. He died Thursday morning after a brief struggle with cancer. He was 67.
I first met Ed in 1983 when I was just a cub, working for the Shreveport Journal and covering the Treen-Edwards governor’s race that the late John Maginnis would call “the Last Hayride.” Ed and I were often together at the same events and struck up a friendship that lasted more than 30 years.
Ed didn’t own a car. It was fact that everyone around him speculated about, but no one seemed to know the back-story. So, he would occasionally hitch a ride with me (he did that with so many other reporters who were more than happy to bring him along.) In all the years I knew him, I was constantly amazed at how, without an automobile, Ed managed to show up at far-flung press conferences and other events. He always found a way to get there and cover the story.
Most of the years I knew Ed, I was on the receiving end of his questions in my capacity as a press secretary for various Louisiana politicians. Ed wanted information or a quote, but he also never failed to ask about me. There was always time for a bit of friendly banter or ribbing. He always got what he wanted, but did it in the most professional and friendly manner. He was simply a person who was impossible to dislike.
That said, if you didn’t know Ed well, at first you might have thought him a bit gruff or cynical, but I soon discovered that underneath that crusty exterior was a tender heart and a lovely soul.
Still, he was a tough, hard-working journalist.
Jan Moller, who runs the Louisiana Budget Project, worked alongside Ed at the Picayune Capitol bureau for many years. In Thursday’s NOLA.com story about Ed, Jan tells a classic story that perfectly captures Ed’s approach to his work.
“A couple of times I had the temerity to ask Ed why he insisted on covering these meetings, where so little important news ever happened,” Moller said. To that, Ed answered, “Because I don’t trust these a–holes and they need to know someone is watching.”
Ed lived in Baton Rouge for the last 27 years, but New Orleans was always his home. He loved the city.
One of my enduring memories of Ed is after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. I saw him often in those early days after much of his hometown was submerged and destroyed by the flood waters. Ed did his usual great work covering the story, but the anguish on his face was evident to all of us around him. He was grieving for his beloved city and its people.
I hadn’t seen Ed much in recent years, since he left journalism. I did, however, see him a few weeks ago in the hospital. He looked relatively well, but weary. We talked for a long time about current affairs and about his strong desire to get out of the hospital and back to work. When I left his room, I had no idea it was the last time I’d ever see him. For some reason, the spirit moved me to hold his hand and tell him, “I love you, Ed.” (We really should say that to those around us more often.) I did love the guy – and so did most of the people who worked with him and knew him.
When I heard the news of his death on Thursday morning, I was stunned. I had every reason to believe that he would be back on his feet and at work within a few months.
Like so many of Ed’s friends and associates, I’m mourning his loss, but also giving God thanks for his friendship, his love and a life well lived. Rest in peace, my friend.