My editor during part of my tenure at City News Service, Mike Qualls, died Sunday at his home in West Covina. Both the Daily News and the Times remembered him with obituaries today. From the Daily News:
Mike Qualls, a former newspaper editor and Vietnam veteran who served as communications director for former City Attorney James Hahn, died Sunday of an apparent brain hemorrhage. He was 63.
Qualls, who also had worked as political editor for the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and as managing editor of City News Service, was discovered by his wife, Debra, when she returned from work to their West Covina home.
Qualls was remembered Monday for his professionalism in all his jobs as well as his easygoing manner and wry humor.
"He was a man of depth, quiet but a hard worker," said Public Works Commissioner Valerie Lynn Shaw.
Qualls was a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and worked more than 20 years as a newsman in Los Angeles.
When the Herald-Examiner closed, Qualls went to work for Hahn, heading up his communications office for 16 years. After Hahn was elected mayor, Qualls moved over to the Board of Public Works where he oversaw its public information office.
Actually, that last paragraph is inaccurate. Qualls left the Her-Ex to manage City News at least seven years before that fabled newspaper folded in 1989. I don't recall when Mike joined City Attorney Hahn's staff; my impression was that he came in with Hahn's election to the post in 1985, but maybe it was later.
At the Her-Ex, Qualls and Joe Scott often shared the byline on a three-dot style political column that downtown City/County types like me pounced on each Monday morning in the early 80s. I was excited when he became my boss at CNS, and enjoyed working for him. When most of the journalistic priesthood tried to talk me out of moving out of reporting and into a flack post with Supervisor Ed Edelman in 1983, Mike was supportive. We ran into each other frequently at City Hall, but didn't really stay in touch. He seemed contented with his shift to "the other side," but to me, the journalistic profession lost a classic, old-style newshound when he left it. Qualls was tough, terse, funny and wise.
Qualls covered campaigns, and the one story I remember him telling was from the campaign trail. He was assigned to Jerry Brown in either 1976 or 1980. He was somewhere in Wisconsin, asleep in a motel room. He woke up in the middle of the night in a disoriented panic, and called his editor in Los Angeles to ask, "Where am I??" Since it was the middle of the night, the editor wasn't sure, so they stayed on the phone talking until they figured it out.