Charles Barton Reppert



By Jay Branegan '72

Bart Reppert ’70, the managing editor of The Sun during the Straight Takeover who later became a Moscow correspondent for the Associated Press, died Sunday, January 16, 2011. The cause was an apparent heart attack, after he was admitted to Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, Md., according to friends. He was 62.

            Bart is remembered by his Sun colleagues for his drive and his intensity, as well as the professionalism he brought to the Sun newsroom.  “Bart was managing editor of The Sun when I joined the paper, and he was an excellent role model,” recalled former managing editor Gary Rubin ’72. “I have always thought he was one of the most polished writers I ever met.” Dan Margulis ’73, also a former ME, said, “As a freshman I was profoundly impressed by his professionalism, courtesy, and stability. He went out of his way to help me, was fair when he needed to criticize, and in general was the person I most looked up to and was most responsible for my continuing with the paper.”

            Bart—byline C. Barton Reppert—stepped into the ME job just before the Straight Takeover in April 1969, an event that defined the era for many at The Sun. His leadership of The Sun during the crisis, recalled Richard Warshauer ’71, “was exemplary.” Ed Zuckerman ’70, editor-in-chief at the time, said, “He wanted The Sun to be accurate and unbiased and he made it so. When many on campus swooned in sympathy with the black students who seized the Straight and others were outraged, Bart kept his own feelings out of The Sun’s coverage, which stands up well to this day.”

 Thin and bespectacled, Bart came to Cornell in the '60s, but he was not of the '60s. “Remember those wild '60s, when everyone had long-hair and protested the war and got stoned or dropped acid while listening to their Jimi Hendrix LPs? Well, Bart was there, but he wasn’t,” Zuckerman said. “He was correct and conservative politically and sartorially (his uniform was a brown corduroy sport jacket with a narrow tie). He was one of a particular type who was attracted to The Sun in those days, a middle-aged man in the body of a teenager.”  

Bart ditched the flimsy Sun stylebook in favor of the massive AP tome, and Richard Neubauer ’72, a former Sun managing editor, recalled “late nights in the newsroom, exhausted but also energized by Bart’s drive to  ‘Get it right,’ that kept me hacking away at the typewriter or finessing a troublesome layout.”  He was to the profession born. “He dropped out of a graduate program in history, once telling me, ‘Why should I break my neck writing stuff no one will ever read?’,” said Andrew Kreig ’70, a fellow Sun editor. Bart was demanding of the staff, but also loyal. A reporter once quoted a Cornell higher-up in what The Suit thought was an off-the-record talk. When the official loudly complained, Bart even more loudly defended the reporter and The Sun and fired off a scathing letter in response.

             Bart joined the AP straight out of Cornell.  He started in the New York office, then transferred down to the prestigious Washington bureau. After a preparatory stint on the overnight shift at the foreign desk in New York, in 1977 he was awarded the post he coveted, correspondent in Moscow.  There he earned his stripes as the wire service’s lead reporter on the “Moscow microwave” story, a major Cold War controversy. It was disclosed that for years the Soviets had been bombarding the U.S. embassy building with microwaves, apparently to jam U.S. spy equipment, leading to allegations of health impacts on embassy staff and a cover-up by U.S. officials.  Bart pursued the story doggedly and filed voluminously.  It sparked his interest in science, health and national security, topics he often returned to in his career. After three years in Moscow, he spent the rest of his wire service career in Washington, where he continued his relentless chase of the microwave issue, as well as other stories.  Bart’s only marriage ended in divorce, and he had no children.

 Bart left the AP in 1990 and worked as a freelance writer, focusing primarily on science and technology policy issues for publications including The Scientist, a biweekly science newspaper, and Government Executive, a monthly magazine.  From time to time he would throw his energy into his dream of starting a newsletter on weighty national security issues, but he was always the smooth wire service pro at heart.

“Bart had the ability to sit down at a typewriter (yes, a typewriter) and knock off a full-length article in one sitting,” recalled Stan Chess ’69, president of the Sun Alumni Association and a former Sun editor-in-chief.  “The drafts that I saw were always polished and needed almost no editing.  Case in point: Bart wrote a long piece after The Sun's 125th anniversary dinner.  It ran in the Cornell Alumni Magazine and captured the event in perfect detail and flavor.  Before he submitted the article, Bart must have called me half a dozen times to make sure he got every fact exactly right.  And, of course, he did.”

 For much of his later years, Bart wrestled with episodic mental health problems. Through his ups and downs, he kept in touch with a number of Cornell and AP friends, seeking advice on a free-lance idea or sending a holiday card. Bart’s condition often made him vexing to deal with. Nonetheless he elicited from many of his old colleagues a loyalty that was generated by the fierce dedication to journalism Bart first demonstrated as a young man and continued throughout his life.