Philip David Fine, 92, of Merion, a prize-winning newspaper reporter, died Friday, Jan. 25, of congestive heart failure at home.
Mr. Fine was a City Hall reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News and then the Evening Bulletin. Later, he was editorial and news director for KYW. In 1980, he took a high-profile job in public relations before retiring in 1994.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., he “grew up poor” during the Great Depression, said his son, Michael.
“He and his sisters came home from the local public school one day to find movers stacking the little furniture the family had on the roadside. It was only through the intervention of a teacher who knew this was a ‘good family,’ and passed the hat for rent money, that they avoided being thrown out on the street,” his son said.
He never forgot the incident, making sure his family wanted for nothing and that he never ignored others in need.
Mr. Fine began his career as a copy boy at the New York Times. Simultaneously, he attended Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, graduating in 1943.
His first writing job was with the Binghamton (N.Y.) Sun, where he worked in 1943 and 1944. He spent two years in the Air Force before taking a reporting job with the Civil Service Leader, a New York newspaper for civil servants.
He spent four years at the State University of Iowa, from which he graduated in 1951 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and political science. He joined the staff of the Toledo (Ohio) Times the same year.
In 1956, while a public affairs reporter for the Toledo Times, he unearthed a secret squad attached to the city’s Civil Defense Unit. The squad monitored newspapers, speech makers, and writers of letters to the editor for alleged un-American activities.
“Phil’s findings snipped the snoopers and won him honors in the Newspaper Guild’s Heywood Broun competition,” the Philadelphia Press Association wrote.
In 1956, he left the Times to join the Daily News. He began on the rewrite bank, taking information over the phone from reporters in the field and producing news stories. He went on to cover City Hall.
While at the Daily News, he won the Philadelphia Press Association’s 1960 reporting award. “Fine’s diligent sniffing around the city-owned gas commission found many odors,” the group wrote.
Mr. Fine uncovered the use of no-bid contracts, favoritism to suppliers, and payment of unauthorized bonuses to builders and appliance salesmen. The allegations triggered a City Council investigation that in turn caused the commission to repay the misspent funds to the city.
Mr. Fine later worked for the Bulletin, but left for a ob as editorial director, and then in 1978 executive editor, of KYW’s Eyewitness News, the NBC local affiliate’s news show. The TV news team covered the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident so thoroughly that when General Public Utilities Corp., owner of the nuclear facility, sought to improve its public image in 1980, it hired Mr. Fine as manager of public information.
“He helped the P.R. department to understand how to communicate with the public and reporters, because they had done such a poor job of it” during the meltdown, his son said.
Mr. Fine had a finely tuned sense of morality, which he passed to his sons, Michael Fine said: “We knew his expectations and that they were right and reasonable, and we internalized them very early on. There was, above all, a moral rectitude and decency that has been a guiding light for us all.”
In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife of 67 years, Barbara; sons Steven and Robert; seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
Services were Monday, Jan. 28.