The Mercury reported that Virginia's Rep. William Scott was known as the "dumbest man in Congress" (he called a press conference to deny that), and never hesitated to scold such Virginia political icons as Mills Godwin. If a film wasn't good, the paper said so (a novelty in the Richmond of that day). But advertisers didn't support such candor, and in 1975 the money ran out.
Despite the paper's short life, the Mercury's staff would go on to national success. Here is where the founding members of the group are now:
Edmund Rennolds IV lives in Silver Spring, Md., and runs a nonprofit organization, America's Future Media Project, that distributes free guest editorials to about 20 newspapers nationwide.
Rob Buford was the first to leave the staff. He went to the corporate communications department of the Ethyl Corp. In 1995, he died of lung cancer.
Lynn Darling worked at the Washington Post for eight years, then moved to New York and wrote for various magazines, including work as a contributing editor to Esquire and Harper's Bazaar. She is finishing a book, which she describes as a memoir essentially about how a woman invents herself. She lives in New York City.
Garrett Epps wrote "The Shad Treatment" about Virginia politics. The novel won the 1978 Lillian Smith prize for literature about the American South. It was republished in 1997 by the University Press of Virginia as one of its Virginia Bookshelf series. In 1985, he published the novel "The Floating Island," and in 2001 his nonfiction "To an Unknown God Religious Freedom on Trial" was published. He teaches law at the University of Oregon in Eugene, writes occasionally for the Oregonian, American Prospect and the Washington Post and is working on another nonfiction book.
Chuck Hite is director of biomedical ethics for Carillion Hospitals in Roanoke. After the Mercury, he worked for UPI, the Daily Progress, the Miami Herald and the Roanoke Times where he was a 1990 finalist for a Pulitzer for his story of life and death decision-making in the intensive care unit. He now has a master's from the University of Virginia in clinical ethics. He lives in Roanoke.
Bill Nelson, now of Manteo, N.C., was the paper's artist. He became an internationally renowned illustrator. He supplied covers for Newsweek and now does about three covers each year for the Atlantic Monthly.
Frank Rich became the powerful drama critic for the New York Times and after leaving that post, has become a NYT op-ed columnist and senior writer for the New York Times Magazine. His latest book, "Ghost Light," is a memoir. He lives in Manhattan.
Harry Stein, who wrote the "Dumbest Man" article about Bill Scott, had a dramatic conversion and is now a confirmed member of the right wing. He has written seven books and six screenplays. His latest book, published in 2000, is " How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-wing Conspiracy (and Found Inner Peace)." He has been a writer and editor for Esquire, Men's Health, the New York Times Magazine and the Wall Street Journal. He lives in Hastings, N.Y.
Glenn Frankel was not a founder; he joined the Mercury later. But, after his stint with the Richmond weekly, Frankel continued in journalism. He won a Pulitzer in 1989 for his coverage of the Palestinian uprising. He is now editor of the Washington Post Magazine.
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