WASHINGTON -- Blake Hounshell, a well-known journalist who edited The New York Times’ “On Politics” newsletter and formerly held several leadership positions at Politico, died Tuesday In Washington. He was 44.
Joe Kahn, the Times executive editor, and Carolyn Ryan, the newspaper’s managing editor, said in a note to staff that Hounshell “was a dedicated journalist who quickly distinguished himself as our lead politics newsletter writer and a gifted observer of our country’s political scene.”
He joined the Times in October 2021 after eight years at Politico.
“He became an indispensable and always insightful voice in the report during a busy election cycle,” Kahn and Ryan wrote. “Blake was devoted to his family and a friend of many on our politics and Washington teams, who have worked alongside him for many years.”
They added, “We’ve just lost a valuable colleague and this is a heartbreaking loss for our team.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story includes discussion of suicide. If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
A Times obituary said Washington police were investigating the death as a suicide. The note to Times staff quoted a statement from Hounshell’s family saying he died “after a long and courageous battle with depression.”
Raised in Pittsburgh and a graduate of Yale University, Hounshell began working in journalism after traveling to Cairo to study Arabic. He joined Foreign Policy magazine in 2006 and returned to Cairo in February 2011 to cover the Arab uprisings.
He was a managing editor of Foreign Policy before joining Politico in 2013. There, he served in several roles including as managing editor for Washington and politics, editorial director of POLITICO.com and editor-in-chief of Politico Magazine.
With Elizabeth Dickinson, Hounshell edited “Southern Tiger: Chile’s Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future,” the memoirs of former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, which were published in 2012.
His death prompted an outpouring of shock and sadness from fellow journalists he worked with and mentored, as well as politicians, political operatives and others.
“The @politico newsroom is in anguish. Blake Hounshell had a dazzling mind, full of original insights about a vast array of subjects,” John F. Harris, a founding editor of Politico, wrote on Twitter. “He was a deeply idealistic and curious man with an exhilarating ability to perceive both patterns and contradictions in the news.”
Newly elected Democratic Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman recalled doing an interview with Hounshell after suffering a stroke in May that forced him to halt campaigning for weeks.
“Blake Hounshell was a fellow stroke survivor, and one of the first interviews I did when I returned to the campaign trail and struggled to find my words," Fetterman tweeted Tuesday. “He showed compassion and humanity in a way few others had.”
Anna Palmer, founder and co-CEO of Punchbowl News, was Hounshell's colleague at Politico and called him “as sharp of an editor as I have ever worked with.”
“He was generous, extremely funny & loyal,” Palmer tweeted. "I’m so sorry to hear of his passing."
MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes tweeted that Hounshell was “always a smart, curious, very very kind guy. Just devastating news.” Scott Jennings, a conservative commentator and political analyst, said he had just spoken to Hounshell last week on a story about the Kentucky governor's race.
“Always considered him to be a good reporter and good guy,” Jennings wrote. “A reminder that you never quite know what people are dealing with in the background.”
Times congressional correspondent Annie Karni tweeted that she wished Hounshell “could see all these tweets of his colleagues who feel indebted to him for where they are."
Hounshell is survived by his wife, Sandy, and two children.