Stephen D. Isaacs, who at 26 became city editor of The Washington Post and went on to become a prominent journalist and academic at Columbia University, died on Aug. 28 in Austin, Tex. He was 76.
His son, David, said he died after a fall.
Mr. Isaacs grew up in a newspaper family — his father, Norman, was editor of two Kentucky papers, The Courier-Journal and The Louisville Times — and Mr. Isaacs spent his career trying to help newspapers and journalists navigate changing times and technology.
When he joined The Post in 1961, two years after graduating from Harvard, he had already worked in London for The Guardian and The Economist and, at 21, as financial editor of The Louisville Times in Kentucky.
Confident, creative and well versed in the industry since his teenage years, he rose quickly at The Post, becoming city editor in the late 1960s before moving to other roles during his 17 years at the paper, including New York bureau chief, political reporter and editor of its Sunday magazine. For a time he was also director of The Los Angeles Times/Washington Post News Service.
Mr. Isaacs was responsible for hiring some of The Post’s notable reporters, including Carl Bernstein, who broke the Watergate story with Bob Woodward.
Mr. Isaacs was 39 when he left to become editor of The Minneapolis Star in 1978. The Star, an afternoon paper, was struggling with declining circulation, and Mr. Isaacs sought to revive it by promoting longer, investigative articles on local issues. He left four years later, after The Star agreed to merge with The Minneapolis Tribune.
In a front-page essay, Mr. Isaacs wrote that changing leisure habits had caused The Star to decline and forced the merger. But in a front-page news article the same day, which described Mr. Isaacs as “a big, indiscreet, intimidating Easterner in a town known for its Scandinavian reserve,” he was deemed to be partly responsible for the paper’s continued decline.
Mr. Isaacs spent several years in the 1980s working at the CBS morning news program and other CBS News programs before joining the faculty at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He became a popular professor, teaching classes on writing and ethics and serving as an associate and acting dean. He took an early interest in the Internet, helping the university establish its Center for New Media. He became a professor emeritus in 2012.
Mr. Isaacs was the author of “Jews and American Politics” (1974), which examined the political roles and influence of Jews and also their sometime separation from the broader electorate.
Stephen David Isaacs was born on Dec. 8, 1937, in Indianapolis. His mother, the former Dorothy Ritz, was also a journalist and wrote a consumer affairs column for The Los Angeles Times Syndicate under her maiden name. Mr. Isaacs played varsity football at Harvard, graduating in 1959.
In addition to his son, Mr. Isaacs’s survivors include his longtime partner, Suzanne Freeman; two daughters, Debbie Jacobson and Sharon Isaacs; and five grandchildren. His marriage to the former Diane M. Scharfeld ended in divorce.