David Rosenbaum (journalist)

David E. Rosenbaum
Born (1942-03-01)March 1, 1942
Miami, Florida
Died January 8, 2006(2006-01-08) (aged 63) 7:10 p.m.
Howard University Hospital, Washington, D.C.
Residence Washington, D.C.
Education Columbia University master's degree in journalism 1965
Alma mater Dartmouth College bachelor's degree 1963
Occupation journalist
Years active 19682005
Employer The New York Times
Known for The New York Times feature "The Fine Print", in which he exposed hidden, perplexing or hypocritical aspects of recent or pending legislation
Home town Tampa, Florida
Spouse(s) Virginia K. Rosenbaum

David Eugene Rosenbaum (March 1, 1942 January 8, 2006) was an American journalist, particularly known for his coverage of politics—in Washington, D.C., and nationally—for The New York Times.

His death led to nationally noted reforms of the emergency services in Washington, D.C.

Origins, education and early career

Rosenbaum was a native of Miami, Florida, and grew up in Tampa, Florida, where his father developed a citrus cannery.[1][2][3][4][5]

In 1963, Rosenbaum earned his bachelor's degree from Dartmouth College (where he was a member of the Kappa Kappa Kappa local fraternity), and in 1965, a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.[1][2][3][5]

After his education, Rosenbaum worked for a number of publications including the St. Petersburg Times, a string of suburban newspapers in London, England, and the Congressional Quarterly, before moving to The New York Times.[1][2][3][5]

Career at The New York Times

Rosenbaum worked for The New York Times for 35 years, beginning in 1968. Throughout his career, he worked as the editor or chief correspondent for many departments at the newspaper, including Congressional, domestic policy, economics, and business. He also worked as assistant news editor for the newspaper.[1][2][3][5][6]

Except for his three years as a Times special-projects editor in the 1980s, most of Rosenbaum's Times career was spent in the Times' Washington Bureau. Rosenbaum covered the 1970s Senate Watergate hearings, the 1980s Iran-Contra Affair, the restructuring of Medicare and Social Security, and various budget and tax debates between Congress and the White House.[1][2][3][5]

Rosenbaum was particularly known for distilling complex governmental issues into readily understood analyses of their effects on people's lives. His popular feature, "The Fine Print", dissected pending policies and legislation, revealing hidden, perplexing or hypocritical facts about current bills and new laws.[1][2][3][5]

Rosenbaum also covered national politics. In 1996, 2000, and 2004, he directed Times coverage of the New Hampshire presidential primaries, and covered the 2004 general election campaign.[2][3][5]

Though he retired in late 2005, Rosenbaum kept his desk at the Times Washington Bureau, and planned continuing as a contributing writer. Just before his death in early 2006, he was working on a preliminary Times obituary of former President Gerald Ford.[1][3][5][7]

In 1991, Rosenbaum was a co-recipient of the Polk Award for his coverage of the 1990 tax hike by then President George H. W. Bush—sharing the honor with journalist Susan Rasky.[1][3][4][5]

In 2012, six years after Rosenbaum's death, his byline appeared on the Times obituary for recently deceased 1968 Democratic Presidential nominee George McGovern—whom Rosenbaum had covered in earlier years. (Rosenbaum had been tasked to write McGovern's obituary years earlier, in accordance with the Times practice of preparing and storing obituaries for notable people while they are still alive.)[6][8]

Leadership and teaching

For 25 years, Rosenbaum served on the steering committee of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press[1][5]

Rosenbaum mentored younger reporters, and taught at his alma mater, Dartmouth College, at Stanford University, and at other colleges and universities.[2]

Death and aftermath

Rosenbaum's 2006 death, under dramatic circumstances, led to reforms in the troubled emergency services system of the District of Columbia, and brought attention to related public safety issues nationwide.


Less than a month after his retirement, Rosenbaum died on January 8, 2006 from a brain injury caused by a blow to the head during a robbery on January 6 near his Washington, D.C., home. Emergency services personnel mistakenly thought him intoxicated, and delayed his treatment, and emergency room staff at Howard University Hospital ignored him for hours—factors alleged to contribute to his death.[1][5][6][9][10][11]

Criminal case

After store surveillance cameras revealed they had used Rosenbaum's credit cards, Michael C. Hamlin and Percy Jordan, Jr. turned themselves into authorities and confessed to the robbery. Hamlin agreed to testify against his cousin, Percy Jordan, Jr., accusing him of killing Rosenbaum with a heavy plastic pipe. Both men were convicted, and sent to prison.[6][9]

System reform settlement

Rosenbaum's family—including his widow, Virginia (a prominent corporate governance analyst, for many years lead analyst for Washington's Investor Responsibility Research Center[5][12]), and brother, Marcus (a senior editor at NPR in Washington), and son, Daniel (a photographer for The Washington Times), and his other children—charged Washington's emergency services system with contributing to Rosenbaum’s death. An investigation validated their concerns.[6][7][9][10][11][13][14][15]

The D.C. inspector general's "scathing", high-profile, public report described the circumstances of Rosenbaum's death as "an unacceptable chain of failure", blaming delayed or inappropriate responses by firefighters, paramedics, police officers and hospital staff—and citing systemic and cultural failures that plagued the District's emergency services system. The report led to a public apology by the City's Fire and EMS Chief, and drew national attention to the issues raised about emergency services nationwide.[6][9][10][11][13][14][15]

Rosenbaum's family agreed to forgo a suit against the city in exchange for the creation of a task force to investigate and improve Washington's emergency services. In cooperation with incoming Washington mayor Adrian Fenty (who had conferred with Rosenbaum's survivors before his election), the Rosenbaum family's settlement with authorities, signed in March, 2007, produced the Task Force on Emergency Medical Services (often called the "Rosenbaum EMS task force"). The task force produced numerous recommendations for emergency services reform in Washington, D.C.[6][9][10][11][14][15]

Reforms followed. By the start of 2008, the District of Columbia got a new fire chief and a full-time medical director, began electronic tracking of patient interactions, and enhanced its oversight of emergency services.[9][11][15]

However, in 2009, many issues remained unresolved, and the Rosenbaum task force remained active.[15]

Family aftermath

Rosenbaum's widow, Virginia ("Ginny") Rosenbaum—his wife for 39 years—died of cancer June 22, 2006, only five months after her husband.[5][12]

Rosenbaum’s son-in-law, Toby Halliday, served as a member of the Rosenbaum EMS task force.[15]

In 2007, Washington's pre-eminent local magazine, Washingtonian, named Rosenbaum's family "Washingtonians of the Year 2007" for their decision to forgo a $20 million lawsuit against the city, over Rosenbaum's death, in exchange for Washington's reform of its emergency services.[11]

Honors and awards


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Purdum, Todd S., "David Rosenbaum, Reporter for Times Who Covered Politics, Dies at 63", January 9, 2006, The New York Times, retrieved August 2, 2016
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Weil, Martin and Allan Lengel, "N.Y. Times Editor-Reporter Dies After Attack in NW: Police Searching for Clues in Robbery", January 9, 2006, The Washington Post, retrieved August 2, 2016
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Obituary: "David E. Rosenbaum, 63, veteran newsman", January 9, 2006, The Washington Times retrieved August 2, 2016
  4. 1 2 3 Obituary: "Passings: David E. Rosenbaum, 63; Retired New York Times Reporter and Editor", January 10, 2006, Los Angeles Times, retrieved August 2, 2016.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 "David Rosenbaum", last updated January 1, 2012, Internet Accuracy Project, retrieved August 2, 2016
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Jaffe, Harry, "David Rosenbaum’s Byline Appears in the "Times" 6 Years After His Death", October 22, 2012, Washingtonian, retrieved 2016-08-02
  7. 1 2 Strupp, Joe, "Death Of 'NY Times' Reporter Still Inspires Questions Two Months Later", March 7, 2006, Editor and Publisher, retrieved August 2, 2016
  8. Rosenbaum, David E. (with update by William McDonald), "George McGovern, a Liberal Trounced but Not Silenced, Dies at 90", October 21, 2012, The New York Times, retrieved August 2, 2016
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Zongker, Brett, Associated Press "Washington, D.C., man found guilty in slaying of retired New York Times reporter", October 24, 2006, San Diego Union-Tribune, retrieved 2016_08_02
  10. 1 2 3 4 Duggan, Paul, "Rosenbaum Lawsuit Settled", December 21, 2007, The Washington Post, retrieved 2016_08_02.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Milk, Leslie and Ellen Ryan, "Washingtonians of the Year 2007: The Rosenbaums", January 1, 2008, Washingtonian, retrieved 2016_08_02.
  12. 1 2 "Virginia Rosenbaum, 63, Wife of Slain Reporter, Dies", June 23, 2006, The New York Times,
  13. 1 2 Davis, Robert, "D.C. EMS Chief Apologizes for Man's Death", June 20, 2006, USA Today, as reprinted in EMS World, retrieved 2016_08_02.
  14. 1 2 3 Peters, Charles (May 2007). "A classy action". Washington Monthly. 9.
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pekkanen, John, "What Happens When You Call 911 in Washington, DC", February 1, 2009, Washingtonian, retrieved 2016_08_02
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