Mark Silva was a reporter other reporters turned to for advice.
A fast and facile writer, he had a machine-like ability to pump out insightful stories that drew praise from colleagues, readers and even politicians he covered, who complimented him for his fairness and accuracy.
Mr. Silva reported on the brawl of politics in Florida and Washington, D.C. He covered presidential elections, including the 2000 vote recount. He was traveling with President George Bush when the 9/11 attacks occurred. Bush was reading “The Pet Goat” before a group of Florida schoolchildren, and “he instantly went into journalist mode and wrote a very compelling account of that,” said Michael Tackett, an editor in the Washington bureau of the New York Times.
Mr. Silva also touched on lighter fare, like the taste of goat brains — “mushy and kind of bland” — encountered by White House correspondents during a Bush visit to the Middle East.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle appreciated his impartiality and knowledge, including two party lions who ran for president, Republican Jeb Bush and Democrat John Kerry. After Mr. Silva died Tuesday of brain cancer, Bush tweeted, “He was a good man and a fair and principled reporter. I was lucky to know him.”
Kerry tweeted, “A fair reporter with great senses of both decency and humor.”
Mr. Silva, 63, whose cancer was diagnosed in late May, died at his home in Alexandria, Virginia, Tackett said. Friends and family had pulled together to help him in a campaign they called “Silva Strong.”
Young Mark grew up in Schenectady, New York, where his father Daniel worked for its dominant employer, General Electric. He attended Brown University and got his master’s degree at Columbia University. He started out at small newspapers in Michigan and North Carolina, Tackett said.
In Florida, he reported on the 2000 presidential election recount for The Miami Herald and was a political correspondent for the Orlando Sentinel.
He was a dean among political writers in the state capital of Tallahassee when Margaret Talev worked for the Tampa Tribune in the mid-1990s.
“He was just so generous and helpful,” said Talev, who’s now chief White House correspondent for Bloomberg News. “If a young reporter was struggling with how to approach a story, “He’d talk you through it.”
After the Sentinel, Mr. Silva joined the Chicago Tribune’s Washington bureau, covering the Bush administration. In addition to a sharp analytical mind, “He had the most collegial of ways,” said James Warren, the Tribune’s former D.C. bureau chief.
“He was a wonderful reporter. . .. .. great sense of humor, really good sources,” Dana Perino said on Fox News’ “The Five.” Perino, a former press secretary in the Bush White House, recalled, “I think he went with us to over 40 countries.”
His strong sources were evident when another news outlet reported Jeb Bush was going to endorse Republican candidate Mitt Romney before the 2012 Florida primary, said Bloomberg View columnist Al Hunt.
“Four minutes later, Mark had a story knocking down the story,” Hunt said. “And, of course, Mark was right.”
At Bloomberg News in Washington, he headed a group of 50 to 60 people covering government. Shifting from reporting to management, “He had the temperament, and he had the capacity and the judgment,” Tackett said. Mr. Silva was so well-liked that those who worked for him actually looked forward to the magnanimity of his performance reviews, Tackett said.
Most recently, Mr. Silva was an assistant managing editor for U.S. News & World Report, where he oversaw its “Best States” platform, ranking the 50 states on how they serve their residents.
He also wrote the 2008 book “McCain: The Essential Guide to the Republican Nominee.”
Mr. Silva’s skills enabled him to re-invent himself as the newspaper business changed and constricted. He wrote or contributed to pioneering blogs, including “The Swamp” for the Tribune and “Political Capital” for Bloomberg.
In his off hours, he enjoyed craft beers and nature photography, as well as driving German-engineered cars and playing blues on his guitar. He admired blues legends including B.B. King. A celebration of his life is being planned, possibly around the end of the month, said his daughter Lisa.
Despite his busy career, “He was a hands-on dad,” she said. “He coached my softball team, my brother’s [Dylan’s] soccer team. He taught me photography. He taught my brother how to play guitar.”
Mr. Silva is also survived by his wife Nina Sichel and a grandson.