Warren Hoge, a former correspondent for The New York Times who covered civil wars in Latin America, the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and numerous global crises before rising to the top ranks of the paper’s newsroom leadership, died on Wednesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 82.
His wife, Olivia Hoge, said the cause was pancreatic cancer, which was diagnosed early last year.
In a 32-year Times career, Mr. Hoge (pronounced hoag), was a versatile reporter and a vivid writer. In Rio de Janeiro, his first foreign assignment, he chronicled a visit by Pope John Paul II and the conundrums of that sprawling Brazilian city of beautiful beaches and hillside slums, which had been terrorized for a decade by vigilante death squads that had slain 3,000 suspected killers and rapists.
Covering political turmoil and guerrilla warfare in South and Central America from 1979 to 1983, Mr. Hoge wrote hundreds of articles on the civil wars that had ebbed and flowed in red tides for years in Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador.
“No cadaver is ever pleasant to look upon,” Mr. Hoge wrote in 1983, in a laudatory review of Joan Didion’s recent book, “Salvador.”
“In my own experience,” he added, in The New York Times Book Review, “the horror of the notion came not when I was staring down at a culvert piled with the morning’s grisly harvest of corpses but when, after many weeks of doing so, I pondered that in a country so small the sheer number of such deaths meant that killing had to have become a daily occupation of many Salvadorans.
“It was a mathematical certainty,” he wrote. “It meant that there were hearths where a father bounced his baby on his knee and asked what was for dinner and spread his arms wide in his favorite chair to stretch from his body the rigors of another day spent torturing, mutilating and killing people.”
Returning to New York, where he had been the product of a privileged Manhattan upbringing, Mr. Hoge became The Times’s foreign news editor for four years beginning in 1983, directing worldwide coverage by scores of staff correspondents, part-time reporters and a cadre of specialized editors in New York.
In 1987, he was named assistant managing editor in charge of administrative and personnel matters. He kept his masthead title when he edited The Times’s Sunday Magazine from 1991 to 1993 and, until 1996, when he oversaw the Sunday Book Review and the culture, style, sports and travel news sections.
As the London bureau chief from 1996 to 2003, Mr. Hoge played key roles in covering the death of Diana in a Paris car crash on the night of Aug. 31, 1997. He wrote 5,000 words virtually overnight: her obituary and articles on Prince Charles returning the body to a grieving British nation, the plans for her funeral, and the royal family, traumatized by its loss and criticism of its tight rein on feelings.
“I saw people sobbing in the streets and surging out of subway stations clutching floral tributes,” Mr. Hoge said in a 2017 round-table retrospective with other Times reporters who had covered Diana’s death. “Mourners thronged the grounds outside her Kensington Palace residence, virtually carpeting the field with flowers and pushing bouquets through the wrought iron gate. Many stood in stricken silence; others knelt, prayed, made the sign of the cross, and slumped to the ground in tears.”
He covered the Labour Party government of Prime Minister Tony Blair and wrote an 8,000-word Times magazine profile of him. He also covered the cultures of Britain and Scandinavia and the 1998 Good Friday Agreement in Belfast, Northern Ireland, which ended most of the conflicts between Ulster Catholics and Protestants that had left thousands dead.
As chief United Nations correspondent from 2004 to 2008, Mr. Hoge wrote some 1,300 articles, many for the front page, on conflicts in Central Africa and the Middle East and on relief efforts in natural disasters. That included the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, the deadliest in recorded history, which took 230,000 lives in a matter of hours.
By the time his journalism career was over, Mr. Hoge had reported from more than 80 countries.
Warren McClamroch Hoge was born in Manhattan on April 13, 1941, the third of four children of James Fulton and Virginia (McClamroch) Hoge. His father was a New York trademark lawyer, and his mother a socially prominent patron of the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and Carnegie Hall. Warren and his siblings — his older brother, James, and his sisters, Barbara and Virginia — grew up in an eight-room apartment on Park Avenue.
James, the eldest, became publisher of The Chicago Sun-Times and later of The Daily News of New York. Warren, five years younger, followed James into the Buckley School in Manhattan and Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, where Warren was expelled for gambling. He transferred to Trinity School in Manhattan and graduated in 1959. Warren, like James, attended Yale, graduating in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in English.
He was in the Army for six months in 1964 and in the Army Reserve until 1970. He took graduate courses at George Washington University while working as a reporter for the old Washington Star in 1964 and 1965, then became The New York Post’s Washington bureau chief for four years. In 1970, he moved to The Post’s New York office, where he soon rose to city editor and assistant managing editor.
A.M. Rosenthal, the managing editor of The Times and soon to be the executive editor, hired Mr. Hoge in 1976 as a metro reporter. A year later, he was named deputy metropolitan editor; by 1979, after only three years on the staff, he became the bureau chief in Rio de Janeiro.
In 1981, Mr. Hoge married Olivia Larisch in Rio. She was the daughter of Count Johann Larisch of Marbella, Spain, and Countess Wilhelmine Larisch.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by their son, Nicholas; two stepdaughters, Christina Villax and Tatjana Leimer; his brother, James; his sister Virginia Verwaal; and six step-grandchildren. His other sister, Barbara Hoge Daine, died in 2001.
After leaving The Times in 2008, Mr. Hoge was named vice president for external affairs of the International Peace Institute, a New York-based lobbying and research organization with close ties to the United Nations. He became the institute’s senior adviser in 2012.
In 1991, when Mr. Hoge was appointed editor of The Times Sunday Magazine, congratulatory notes poured in from many political and media leaders who were his friends. Avenue, a New York society magazine, ran a profile detailing his stylish sartorial tastes and listing a constellation of actresses and fashion models he had dated in a bachelor life that lasted until he was 40.
But it was a largely flattering portrait. “He’s in the Social Register, he’s married to an Austrian countess,” the article said. “His friends say only nice things about him. ‘Warren’s middle name is charm,’ declares one. ‘He’s the Fred Astaire of dance partners,’ says another. He gets high marks for politeness and civility. ‘Warren has a fundamental decency,’ says a Times editor. ‘He’s ambitious, but he’s nice to people over and under him.’”
William McDonald contributed reporting.