The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Christopher Shea, Washington Post editor, dies at 53

At The Post, he assigned and edited hundreds of pieces that reflected his voracious consumption of politics, social science and popular culture

Christopher Shea in 2018. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Christopher Shea, a Washington Post editor who specialized in assigning and editing news essays and analysis for the Outlook section in print and PostEverything section online, died July 24 at a hospital in Washington. He was 53 and a resident of Silver Spring, Md.

His sister, Nancy O’Driscoll, said he had depression and died by suicide.

Mr. Shea was described by his sister as an intellectual who was drawn to books and ideas and was less animated by the prospect of traditional beat reporting. He joined The Post in 2018 after a year running the Perspectives section at Vox.com in Washington and an earlier career contributing to the opinion and reviews sections of the Boston Globe and the Wall Street Journal.

At The Post, he assigned and edited hundreds of pieces that reflected his voracious consumption of politics, social science and popular culture.

“A favorite of his, after Trump impeachment defenders said attempting a crime is itself no crime, was a remembrance by the former ‘Simpsons’ show-runner who had famously skewered this notion in the voice of Sideshow Bob,” former Outlook editor Adam Kushner wrote in a tribute. “He routinely asked people with whom he disagreed to write for Outlook. At every meeting, he had ideas about who would enliven the coverage — a parent who smoked pot with her teenage son, a musicologist who dove deep into Lou Reed.”

Mr. Shea scoured academic journals, obscure blogs and publishers’ seasonal book lists while on the hunt for lesser-known but intriguing writers who might contribute essays. Kushner noted that Mr. Shea was generous in time spent elevating novice prose and detangling technical jargon from experts unaccustomed to writing for a mainstream publication — but that even he had his limits when it came to hopelessly elliptical writing.

“That submission,” he once tartly noted of a piece, “is more artful than readable.”

Christopher Thomas Shea was born in Hartford, Conn., on Jan. 26, 1969, and grew up in Simsbury, Conn. His parents worked at Cigna insurance, his mother in the compensation department and his father as chief legal counsel in the retirement and investment division.

After interning at the Philadelphia Inquirer and graduating in 1991 from Princeton University with a bachelor’s degree in English, Mr. Shea spent six years as a writer and editor at the Chronicle of Higher Education. He was later a contributing editor at Lingua Franca, a now-defunct publication about academic life, among other jobs.

His marriage to Rachel Hartigan ended in divorce. In addition to his sister, of Newton, Mass., survivors include his companion of three years, Amanda Perez of Falls Church, Va.; a son from his marriage, Will Shea of Silver Spring and Takoma Park, Md.; and his parents, Judith Shea of Haverford, Pa., and Thomas Shea of Simsbury.

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