James F. Ahearn, a 1971 Nieman Fellow and longtime reporter and editor in New Jersey, died in Rhinebeck, New York on April 13. He was 87.
Ahearn worked at The Record newspaper in Bergen County, New Jersey for more than five decades, in roles ranging from statehouse correspondent, editor, and columnist to managing editor.
Born in South Bend, Indiana in 1931, Ahearn came from a family of journalists. His parents, Francis T. Ahearn—who later served as the city editor of The Hartford Times—and Loretta Lorden Ahearn, met while working as journalists in South Bend; his siblings, Dave Ahearn and Judy Ahearn MacKown, also both pursued careers in journalism. Ahearn received his bachelor’s degree from Amherst College in 1953. He served in the Navy from 1954 to 1957 as a Combat Information Center officer and as an operations officer aboard destroyers in the North Atlantic. He began his career in journalism as a reporter with United Press International in Boston and was sent by the wire service to Trenton, New Jersey in 1959 to cover the state’s government and politics.
Ahearn was recruited in 1961 by The Record to run its new Trenton bureau. He spent the rest of his career with the newspaper, which has long been among New Jersey’s largest papers in terms of circulation. He left the Trenton bureau in 1965 to become an editorial writer and later, following his Nieman fellowship year, was promoted to associate editor and head of The Record’s editorial page.
In 1977, Ahearn became managing editor of The Record, a position he held for the next decade. He then returned to writing more frequently and supervised special projects as associate editor and a columnist. He became senior editor in 1992, and a contributing editor in 1993. He continued to write for the newspaper until 2013, penning a twice-weekly syndicated column on New Jersey public affairs.
Ahearn is survived by his wife, Mary Ann, as well as his four children, two grandchildren, and his brother.