Mary Tobin's Obit

Here's the obituary of former UPI financial editor Mary Tobin, who died on May 2, 2001:


NEW YORK (UPI) -- Pioneering UPI financial reporter Mary Tobin, whose breaking stories from the front lines of the Mexican debt crisis first heralded the downside of globalization for millions of newspaper readers, died Wednesday after a bout of pneumonia. She was 70.

Tobin chronicled the ripple effects of currency crises and sovereign debt gyrations -- subjects new to the front pages in the early 1980s. Mexico's declaration of a moratorium on what was then $90 billion in foreign debt foreshadowed other such challenges to the world financial system in subsequent years.

As United Press International's global economics reporter, Tobin followed the story around the world as finance ministers and central bank governors grappled with a global system in turmoil.

It was "an exciting time for a reporter but a potential disaster for the global financial system," Tobin wrote.

Tobin's often unparalleled access to finance ministers and bank executives through the following two decades was built through her trademark journalistic assault -- relentless telephone calls and follow-ups -- that converted notoriously publicity shy finance industry executives and government officials into trusted sources and lifelong friends.

Never to be overlooked, Tobin's energy and unvarnished enthusiasm for the subject at international gatherings often broke the ice.

At UPI, increasingly open to women in top reporting spots in the 1960s and '70s, she became banking editor and blanketed the New York banking and finance scene even as her UPI colleague in Washington, Helen Thomas, was building her reputation as White House correspondent.

Thomas, now a Hearst Newspapers columnist, said Tuesday, "She was an expert in financial reporting long before you had the stock market and the money markets on television constantly -- and she was probably the finest reporter in that field." "Her reporting was factual and straight, but also had an extra touch that was so impressive -- and she was a great lady besides."

Richard Howe, who as Citibank's media liaison had braced himself for many Tobin calls in the middle of the night, said, "Mary was one of the best -- a thorough, honest, savvy reporter, a thoroughly nice person and very good friend. I will miss her."

Her boss at UPI, then Business Editor Dorothea Brooks, said, "Mary was not only one of the best reporters and deskers I was privileged to work with -- she was a close friend who will be missed."

"To all at UPI who knew her -- and there were many throughout UPI bureaus here and abroad -- she was often a cheerful, helpful guide to the mysteries of things financial," Brooks said. "To those in the banking industry she covered she was a zealous and fair reporter. To those who read her stories in client papers, she made a difficult subject understandable."

UPI colleague Frank Schnaue remembered one occasion when Tobin was sent to cover a closed meeting of the Commodity Exchange Inc., as they were holding a meeting on the Hunt brothers and the silver crisis.

After eight hours the doors open, Tobin sidled up to one of the Hunts, slipped her arm through his and strolled away, offering him a cigarette and asking him questions, her tape recorder running. Her chat turned into a three-part series.

Schnaue said, "Mary was a wonderful happy worker who loved to torment the Federal Reserve and the banking industry.

"As a reporter she was also looking for the comment to answer the question why."

Tobin left UPI in one of its bouts of turmoil and joined Market News International as deputy New York bureau chief. She also worked for International Financing Review magazine.

Market News International's Managing Editor Tony Mace said, "Mary was relentless in the pursuit of a story, the harder to capture the better -- because she knew those kind of stories stood out. She was totally involved in this pursuit and she helped us a lot. We'll all miss her."

Market News Washington Bureau Chief Denny Gulino said Tobin, with whom he worked at UPI, "saw what for others was often an impersonal world of financial bureaucracies in terms of the very real people involved. She knew their backgrounds, their families, their personal aspirations and often that made all the difference in anticipating -- or being told -- what would happen next."

Tobin's first job as reporter -- and sometimes aerial photographer -- was at Ohio's Marietta Times newspaper, after which she joined UPI as a Teletype operator in New York in 1964 "because the money was better and the hours gave me time for my daughter."

Tobin was one of a handful of women pioneers in the financial news business, and according to her daughter, Jamie, it was one of things she was proudest of.

Aspiring women reporters always benefited from Tobin's recollection of her own challenges in what initially had been a thoroughly male dominated world, helping them master the intricacies of financial reporting in a field not often distinguished for its altruism.

Reuters reporter Toby Zakaria, in Washington, said Tuesday, "I met Mary Tobin first at Market News when I just started covering the financial markets, and barely knew what a 'long bond' was. And she shared her expertise."

"She never lost her love for the news business. Her eyes would gleam when she got a scoop or heard a rumor that she could confirm," she said.

Former UPI colleague Dan Drosdoff, now an official at the Inter-American Development Bank, said that he first met her as a Teletype operator "and then, 13 years later, she's in Montevideo covering the Uruguay Round of Tariffs and Trade that spawned the World Trade Organization."

She was always seen at top-level world financial conferences, where global economic policies were decided.

Former UPI colleague Frank Sakdalan said, "I can still remember Mary puffing away while pounding out the day's money lead. I can also picture in my mind the smile on her face when my wife and I saw her at St. Francis (of Assisi) church in mid-Manhattan. She was one of the ushers collecting donations during the evening mass.

In addition to her daughter, Jamie, Tobin is survived by sisters Patricia and Alma and brother, Richard.