Thursday, September 08, 2016

Warren J. Hinckle III, 1938-2016

On Wednesday, August 24, I learned that Warren Hinckle's death was imminent. The former editor of Ramparts magazine had been ailing for some time. Occasionally I was asked how he might be contacted. (He was notorious for not returning telephone calls or opening his mail.) One of those queries led to his oral history at the University of California, Berkeley, but more often than not he wasn't well enough to be interviewed. So I wasn't surprised by the news of Warren's demise. I shared that information with one other person, Bob Scheer. Within hours, David Talbot wrote a Facebook post that essentially served as an obituary. Warren died the next day.

In my Truthdig article and when speaking to the press, I tried to put across how extraordinary Ramparts magazine was under Warren's direction. And I made sure to note that Warren made American journalistic history at least twice: once for leading Ramparts, and then again for pairing Hunter S. Thompson with illustrator Ralph Steadman, thereby birthing Gonzo journalism. Warren published their article on the Kentucky Derby in 1970; after Scanlan's tanked, Jann Wenner recruited the two for Rolling Stone, which was founded by Jann and Ralph J. Gleason, both Ramparts alumni.

I learned a lot about Warren's post-Ramparts life by reading the coverage and going to his vigil and rosary. But as colorful as that life was, his work at Ramparts was his most significant professional contribution. His showmanship, combined with Bob Scheer's political smarts and Dugald Stermer's flair for design, was the key to Ramparts' success. Bob went on to a long career at the Los Angeles Times and now Truthdig, and Dugald taught and continued to produce important work. But that combination (Hinckle, Scheer, and Stermer) was greater than the sum of its parts.

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