The death of Martha Ziegner

Dateline: Sun 20 Jan 2008

Former Indianapolis News writer Martha Ziegner, 88, died last week, points out faithful reader Rick Sutton, who keeps tabs on all things Indy.

Sutton recalls Mrs. Ziegner was "the widow of the late great political columnist Ed Ziegner." She kept a clip file of all his columns, says Sutton.

A short article in Time magazine in 1953 notes that Mrs. Ziegner was a reporter for eight years at the Indianapolis News. According to her husband, quoted in that article, she remained a great source for stories, always possessing that journalist's knack for what is compelling and what is not. She could also dig, said Time.

The obit that ran in the Star said "Martha was radio and movie editor at the Indianapolis News, a career she thoroughly enjoyed, and where she met her husband of 43 years, Edward Henry Ziegner, longtime political editor of the News. Following her retirement to raise her family, Martha continued to write, penning a mother-daughter cookbook, reporting lifestyle stories from national political conventions and chronicling her husband's career covering Indiana politics in her first published book entitled Views from the Press Shack."

Former News newsman/courts reporter Art Harris recalls that the late Ed Ziegner did it his way. He could be gruff and intimidating, even to fellow journalists.

But apparently, he got the story.

Time also reported in 1957 on an angry closed-door meeting held that year between two feuding factions of the Indiana Republican party. The meeting, in an Indy hotel room, was particularly bitter. What the two sides did not realize was that a microphone at a table in the room was broadcasting every cantankerous word to the nearby press room.

At that glorious time, reporters at wire services and papers fought tooth and nail to scoop one another. Politicians had their favorites in the press corps and rewarded them accordingly with juicy tips and inside information. But on this rare occasion, it seems, everyone in that press room had equal access to this developing story.

When the electronic "leak" was discovered, an innocent G.O.P. secretary called over to the press room to alert the reporters, who of course were already on high alert. The secretary asked Ed Ziegner, who had answered the phone, to please let the G.O.P. state chairman know that everything said privately was being broadcast.

Quotes Time: "I did, too," said Ziegner. "After the meeting was over."

It's a cliche and hopeless nostalgia, but "those were the days." Also, one can only assume that it was sweet Martha who planted the eavesdropping story with Time.

Our sympathies to the family of Martha Ziegner.

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