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Bob Balkin, a political journalism pioneer, died Sunday.
Bob Balkin, a political journalism pioneer, died Sunday.SUNY Office of Global Affairs

Remembering a pioneer in political journalism

Bob Balkin, one of the original editors of The Hotline, has died at age 60. He helped change how campaigns are covered. 


Bob Balkin, a pioneer of modern political journalism, died Sunday at age 60 following a battle with cancer.  

Balkin was a former editor and a founding staffer for The Presidential Campaign Hotline (as it was first called) when it was introduced in November 1987. Balkin joined The Hotline fresh from a stint with the first presidential campaign of then-Delaware Sen. Joe Biden that same year.

Long before the Internet age, The Hotline delivered a daily, comprehensive look at all things campaign related, compiled through original reporting, and by gathering and disseminating the best local political journalism in the country. 

In his decade building and leading the publication, Balkin worked with Hotline founder Doug Bailey to take the publication to new heights, helping turn it into a must-read for anyone involved in politics and one that transcended the simple spreading of information to become an analytical and trusted voice among Washington insiders. Those efforts took The Hotline from a fax-delivered publication to an influential insider online tip sheet that helped Washington learn that aggregation was more than simply clipping newspapers. 

It's a testament to the publication’s impact that many of today’s insider political and Washington newsletters are derivatives of what Balkin helped build and create at the The Hotline. And the development of many of the most prominent political journalists in Washington today can be counted among those who learned the ropes from The Hotline over the past three decades.  

After leaving The Hotline in 1997, Balkin pursued a personal passion and spent several years traveling Latin America, covering one presidential election after another. He’d eventually settle in Mexico City and help SUNY (the State Univ. Of New York) start and run various programs throughout Mexico and Latin America. He was still working for SUNY in Albany at the time of his death. 

Born in Chicago, Balkin split his childhood between the Chicago suburbs of Skokie and Northbrook and Little Rock, Ark., graduating from historic Central High. Balkin went to earn his undergraduate degree at Michigan and received his J.D. from Georgetown, an achievement he attained while also working in politics, including the Walter Mondale for President campaign in 1984. 

Balkin is survived by his wife of 15 years, Tzini, and their four children, Migue, Alex, Pedro and Emily, as well as an older daughter, Alice. A memorial service will be held for Balkin in the Albany area on Oct. 9. Further details to come.