Ms. Ferguson-Rohrer, a longtime copy desk chief who served most recently as night news director, overseeing late-breaking news coverage, died Aug. 18 at her home in Arlington, Va. She was 58.
The cause was complications from pancreatic cancer, said Carrie Camillo, a friend and Post colleague who called her the “traffic cop” of nighttime news.
News editors tend to play quiet backstage roles in journalism, serving as guardians of language and common sense as they uphold journalistic standards in a relentless news cycle. Ms. Ferguson-Rohrer was an unusually colorful figure — literally so, with her flaming red hair — in the newsroom.
Off deadline, she was a gregarious presence with an omnivorous appreciation for high- and lowbrow culture, a fascination with the Yankees and the Giants of her youth, and a devotion to animal rights.
But under looming deadlines, when reporters and editors delayed in finishing stories, Ms. Ferguson-Rohrer was known for firing off intra-office missives that were caustic and sometimes profane, with a certain mafioso persuasiveness.
“I hate you with the heat of a thousand suns,” she once told offending editors, partly — perhaps — in jest. “Also, I keep track, and you will pay one day.”
Barbara Vobejda, a Post deputy managing editor, emphasized Ms. Ferguson-Rohrer’s “combination of tough humor and gentle kindness” and her mentorship of dozens of journalists.
That mix of caring and command propelled Ms. Ferguson-Rohrer, within six months of her joining The Post in 1998, from a Metro section copy-editing job to a supervisory role. She was tasked with overseeing the roughly dozen Virginia and Maryland inserts called “tabs,” featuring news of near and outlying counties. Her responsibilities grew to include recruiting and hiring copy editors across the newsroom. In 2009, she was asked to run copy desks for all sections except Sports.
She later held the title of multiplatform editing chief, leading a team of nearly 50 editors as they shepherded copy for print as well as online and mobile devices.
“She has transformed what was a print-only desk into an operation versed in the high arts of search-engine optimization, linking and all manner of digital publishing,” read her citation for the 2011 Eugene Meyer Award, the paper’s highest honor. “Anne shows a kind of equanimity amid chaos that epitomizes the best of our Newsroom culture. She is smart, careful and generous with her time and wisdom.”
As strict as Ms. Ferguson-Rohrer could be about enforcing deadlines, she was equally gracious in saving Post journalists from embarrassment.
“Anne was the final line of defense,” said Mike Semel, The Post’s top local editor. “You’d have a huge aspirational project that had been read by five senior editors and Anne would give it the final read. She’d always find ways to say things more clearly. But more than once, she saved our bacon by catching holes in the reporting or something that simply didn’t make sense. She’d never take or want credit. Anne never danced in the end zone. But she would take enormous pride in making sure our readers got our best work.”
Anne Marie Ferguson was born in the Bronx on Nov. 13, 1961, and grew up in Pelham, N.Y., the oldest of five siblings. She was in her teens when she decided on a journalism career, later writing in a newsroom biographical sketch, “When it became clear that my ambition to play third base for the Yankees wasn’t going to pan out, I figured writing about them was the next best thing.”
She studied journalism at Syracuse University and Michigan State University before working at the old Paterson (N.J.) News, the Salisbury (N.C.) Post and the Winston-Salem Journal, where she rose over nine years to copy desk chief.
Ms. Ferguson-Rohrer was a former board member of ACES: the Society for Editing, was active in Basset Rescue of Old Dominion (BROOD), a basset-hound rescue group, and volunteered for Meals on Wheels.
Survivors include her husband of 32 years, S. Scott Rohrer, a journalist and historian, of Arlington; a son, Joshua Rohrer of Alexandria, Va.; two brothers; and two sisters.
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