Robin Herman ’73, pioneer ‘Prince’ journalist at The Times, dies at 70
Pioneering journalist Robin C. Herman ’73, who worked to dismantle gender barriers in sports journalism at the Daily Princetonian, The New York Times and other publications, died on Tuesday, February 1. She was 70 years old.
Herman died at her home in Waltham, Mass. after a long battle with ovarian cancer, according to her husband Paul Horvitz.
A journalist for most of her career, Herman was the first woman to become a regular reporter for the “Prince” during her time at the paper in 1970, according to her colleagues. She was also the first woman to become a sports reporter for The New York Times. She became known as one of the first two female journalists to gain access to National Hockey League (NHL) athlete locker rooms in 1975 and went on to a prolific career in journalism while gaining ground for women in the world. sports writing.
Herman was born in New York on November 24, 1951. Her father, Sidney, owned a hat factory and taught business law at the New York Institute of Technology. His mother, Mildred, was a Brooklyn College graduate and a sculptor.
Herman grew up in Port Washington on Long Island and attended Paul D. Schreiber High School, where she wrote and edited for the Schreiber Times and sang in the college choir, in addition to many other activities, according to the archives of Herman in the archives of Princeton University. .
Although she listed her potential major as biology and wrote that she was looking to become a biologist when applying to college, Herman’s affinity for journalism was evident even before she arrived on campus. .
“My greatest interest is the Schreiber Times, our newspaper,” she wrote in her personal statement. “Because I have such a great responsibility to keep the students of the school informed of events, I feel the power I have every time I decide to remove or cut a particular article, write an editorial or to lay out the first page.”
Among the first class of women to enter Princeton as undergraduates, Herman arrived at the university in the fall of 1969 in a tumultuous time. The 1969–70 academic year was marked by the enormous changes brought to campus by the move to coeducation and the campus-wide boycott of classes in opposition to the Vietnam War.
While in college, Herman joined the “Prince” and became the paper’s first female regular. At the time, all new staff members were assigned a news and sports assignment by convention, but Herman was only assigned to news writing at the start.
“It felt unfair to me,” Herman recalled in a 2013 interview with Princeton Alumni Weekly. “It was a reflex, really.”
Eventually Herman pursued sports writing in addition to his news coverage, reporting on rugby, men’s squash, men’s tennis and football. Her stories often featured the beginnings of Princeton’s first class of female undergraduates as they assimilated into a campus surrounded by thousands of male students.
A story Herman wrote for a special issue in 1970 described the challenges of dating in a 20:1 gender ratio and women picking up the habits of their male peers.
Herman worked as an associate editor and associate editor for the “Prince” until she was named sports editor midway through her freshman year. She held this position for much of 1972 until she became editor, the editorial masthead’s second highest position, due to a reshuffle of the board of directors.
Annalyn Swan ’73 and Diana Savit ’73, who were the second and third women to join the “Prince” and who became editor and editor-in-chief respectively, recalled Herman’s character and drive.
“She was extremely bright, determined and really brave,” Swan said in an interview with the “Prince.” “If she didn’t get where she wanted to go, she would die trying.”
Swan recalled that Herman had successfully organized a picnic in the English department despite the objections of the department head.
“She had great instincts and had a really good sense of assessing a situation and making it work,” Savit said in an interview with the “Prince.” “I think she knew, in a way that a lot of us didn’t, that [asking for a sports beat] was going to open doors for her even if she had to push them herself.
Savit also recalled that although, unlike Herman, she had not actively sought a sports assignment as a new staff member, she had to cover sports in addition to news due to Herman’s precedent.
A member of the Tower Club, Herman graduated magna cum laude with an AB in English from Princeton in 1973 and was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society.
Her 99-page thesis, which she dedicated “to my friend, Annalyn Swan”, is titled “Three Godey’s Lady Book Authors and a Convention”. The dissertation examined the literary works of three prominent 19th-century American women – Eliza Leslie, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, and Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Herman joined The New York Times just six days after graduating from Princeton. She began her tenure as a “copy girl” but soon became the first full-fledged female sports reporter at The Times.
She briefly covered tennis, yachting and horse racing before being assigned to cover the NHL’s New York Islanders in 1974. It was there that Herman was routinely denied locker room access. athletes.
At the time, professional sports leagues generally did not allow female reporters into the locker rooms of male players. Herman spoke to players who accepted away interviews in the hallway, which made it harder for him to record the players’ immediate thoughts and outlook after the game.
Herman’s moment of glory came in January 1975, when the 28th NHL All-Star Game was played at the Montreal Forum in Montreal, Canada. Herman and local radio reporter Marcelle St. Cyr were allowed into the locker room by coaches, but in trying to write a story about the game and the athletes, the two women themselves made headlines. newspapers.
Herman moved to cover for the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden in 1976; the changing rooms there were open to female journalists that year with support from head coach and general manager John Ferguson as well as the Rangers players themselves.
Lawrie Mifflin, who worked with Herman while covering Rangers for The Daily News, recalled the two reporters supporting each other.
“Across the country, there were maybe 10 to 12 women covering professional sports, and there were two of us, assigned to the same team,” Mifflin explained in an interview with the “Prince.” “It was so lucky because we had supported each other; we met to strategize on how to persuade more teams to let us do our job properly. It was very unusual; [usually] all the women were alone.
A photo of Herman interviewing a hockey player in the locker room for The Times hangs on the east wall of Cafe Vivian at the Frist Campus Center.
Herman moved to the Metropolitan office in 1979 and left The Times in 1983. She wrote about health and science as a freelance reporter for The Washington Post and the International Herald Tribune, and wrote a book in 1990 titled ” Fusion: The Search for Endless Energy.”
Herman became a health reporter for the Post in 1991 before returning to freelance writing in 1995. She joined the Harvard School of Public Health (now Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health) as assistant dean for communications in 1999 and retired in 2012.
Herman met her husband and fellow journalist Paul Fisher Horvitz in 1979 while the latter was editing a national report she had written. They wrote private messages to each other via the Times computer system using the pseudonyms “Boris” and “Natasha”.
The two got engaged in 1980 and married in 1981.
In the June 10, 1999, issue of The International Herald Tribune, they each had a front-page story. Herman reported on the chemical polluting dioxin while Horvitz wrote about the Kosovo War peace negotiations.
The couple adopted their daughter, Eva, from Paraguay in 1987, and their son Zachary was born in Paris in 1990.
In an interview with the “Prince,” Horvitz spoke about Herman’s dedication as a mother who supports her children.
“Robin wanted to be a mother and knew she had to fill that role,” Horvitz said. “Both of our children had learning disabilities and subsequently developed mental illnesses. Robin was determined not to give up; she was a truly devoted mother in extremely difficult circumstances.
In a Princeton Alumni Weekly article she wrote in 2015, Herman discussed her experiences as a mother supporting her children with mental illnesses. In 2014, she hosted a panel at the Princeton meetings titled “Parenting Young Adult Children With Mental Illness”.
Herman is survived by her husband, Paul Horvitz; their children, Eva and Zachary; two grandsons; and his sister, Summer Pramer.
Allan Shen is a senior writer who often covers research and obituaries. He can be reached at [email protected], or on Twitter at @fulunallanshen. He previously served as associate news editor.