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Longtime reporter, editor Alan Finder dies at 72 

Alan Finder interviews children at a school in

Alan Finder interviews children at a school in Ardsley, N.Y., in 2005. Credit: The New York Times / Librado Romero

Journalist Alan A. Finder, who worked for Newsday and spent the bulk of his diverse career as a reporter and editor for The New York Times, died Tuesday after testing positive earlier this month for the novel coronavirus COVID-19, Times executive editor Dean Baquet said in a statement. He was 72.

Baquet called Finder, who retired in December 2011 after more than 28 years of service,  “a generous and patient colleague.” “He was one of Metro’s stars in the 1980s and 1990s, a big writer in a big, hugely competitive era for New York City news,” Baquet said.

Finder, of Ridgewood, New Jersey, also worked at The Record in Hackensack.

Newsday assistant managing editor for investigations Martin Gottlieb, who worked with Finder at The Record and brought him to Newsday as a freelance editor on "Pathway to Power," which became an award-winning investigation of the rise of Oheka Castle owner Gary Melius through “Long Island’s cozy political system,” recalled Finder Tuesday as “unflappable” and “masterful.”

“He had a tremendous amount of humility, too, and he never felt he was better than anyone else,” Gottlieb said. 

“He was just a good soul.”

Born Feb. 19, 1948, in Brooklyn, Finder grew up in Nassau County, colleagues said, then received a BA degree in history from the University of Rochester in 1969 and a master's in American Studies from Yale University in 1972. He went to work for The Record from 1974 to 1979, covering local news and projects and serving as Sunday city editor.

Finder then joined Newsday as a reporter, covering local news, politics, energy and projects between 1979 and 1983, before leaving the paper for the Times.

During a career that spanned decades, Finder covered news-side beats that included City Hall, housing, labor and transportation, Baquet said, and served as acting bureau chief at the Times' City Hall bureau from June 1986 into 1987. Among notable projects was a nine-part series on Mayor Ed Koch, as well as 1987, 1990 and 1991 projects on assessments in New York City, a two-part series on affirmative action in city contracting, and a 1995 look at modern-day sweatshops in the city. 

He also served as a Metro enterprise reporter from 1994 to 1999, sports enterprise editor from 1999 to 2005, and an education reporter from May 2005 to April 2008, when he became an assistant editor on the foreign desk, according to his bio on LinkedIn.

Gottlieb and Newsday reporter Sandra Peddie said Finder played a key role on the Melius project. Finder was initially slated to be an extra set of eyes on the complex 2018 project but ended up as the main editor when Gottlieb was sidelined by a medical emergency.

“Alan was asked to take on a huge, somewhat controversial project with reporters he didn’t know, and he handled it with extraordinary aplomb,” Peddie recalled Tuesday, adding: “We all came to appreciate his intelligence, his journalistic smarts and his sense of humor. He really didn’t let much rattle him, even the long commute he made from New Jersey to get to Long Island.”

The series won the Society of Silurians President's Choice Medallion, the New York News Publishers Association award for distinguished investigative reporting, the New York Press Club Golden Keyboard Award, first place in the New York State Associated Press Association investigative watchdog reporting category, and the Long Island Press Club Robert W. Greene public service award.

“He was so down to earth — he never got caught up in the pretentiousness some journalists have about their important work — and yet he really understood what a difference we made every day,” Peddie said. Most important, she noted, was this simple postscript: “The world is a much sadder place without him.”

Finder is survived by his wife, Elaine Isaacson, as well as daughter Lauren Elizabeth Drucker and son Jason Finder.

Services were being finalized. 

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