Walt Wurfel Dies at 81

Walt Wurfel, former senior VP of communications for the National Association of Broadcasters, has died at an assisted living facility in Falls Church, Va, according to NAB. He was 81.

Wurfel was in the NAB post between 1986 and 1997. Before that he was deputy press secretary in the Carter White House; VP, corporate communications at Gannett, a reporter at The Washington Star, and editor at the St. Petersburg Times. He was also a member of the board of the National Press Foundation.

Wurfel was also offered the post of dean of communications at American University in Washington when he left the Carter White House, but opted for the Gannett post instead, leaving that to become president of the Washington office of Ruder Finn & Rotman.

In the Carter White House, Wurfel was responsible for administering the press office had helped institute a policy of giving access and responding to out-of-town reporters from broadcast and print. "I had a personal feeling about this because I had worked at various times at local newspapers around the country, most recently at the St. Petersburg Times, and would call the White House at times to get confirmation or denial of something and frequently felt put down," Wurfel told David Alsobrook of the Presidential Papers Office in the West Wing of the White House in a 1979 interview.

A ham radio operator, Wurfel monitored reports from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands during Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and contributed to coverage for The Washington Post, where Wurfel's wife, Sara Fitzgerald, worked at the time. 

He is survived by Fitzgerald, a reporter and author, who met Wurfel when they both worked at the St. Petersburg Times. Notes to Fitzgerald can be emailed to sarafitz@aol.com.

A memorial service will be held Dec. 22 at Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ in Arlington, Va.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.