June 03, 1985 12:00 PM

Negative news is like a black hole. How do you describe it? Such was the problem with our news story about Pat Buchanan, the White House director of communications (p. 40). As Assistant Managing Editor Hal Wingo, 50, put it: “Buchanan doesn’t do anything you would expect. He doesn’t answer questions; he doesn’t pick up the phone; he doesn’t respond to messages. He behaves as if he is being gagged!”

So why not illustrate this with all the White House sources gagged, including those queried by special correspondent Michael Weiss (all refused to talk). Each could have a hand superimposed across the mouth. And who should provide the hand? By acclamation, Hal Wingo, who shrugged modestly, saying, “I guess they picked my hand because it’s big enough to cover any mouth, including my own.”

It is not the first time Wingo has been asked to lend a hand for the magazine. He was tapped to work on PEOPLE’S first dummy issue, July 1973. When the magazine was finally launched on March 4, 1974 (Hal’s birthday), Hal was listed as chief of correspondents.

Magazine journalism had always been Wingo’s goal. Born in Texas, the son of a Baptist minister, he grew up in San Antonio, graduated from Baylor (’57) and was a reporter for the San Antonio Light, before spending two years in the U.S. Air Force, where he rose to first lieutenant. Later, equipped with an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri (’63), he drove to New York in a ’57 Ford (“leaving a trail of oil all the way”). Putting up at a YMCA, he walked in off the street and landed a job as reporter on LIFE, spending three years in its L.A. bureau and three years in Hong Kong, covering Southeast Asia and the Vietnam War. He married Paula Brown in 1957 and they have two children, Nancie, 26, and Hal III, 21.

Wingo oversees a network of 25 full-time correspondents and some 60 occasional contributors around the world. “One of the tenets of this magazine,” Wingo points out, “is that we will only do a story with people who are available for pictures and interviews. But sometimes,” he adds, “we have to talk to those around the subject. That’s when having well-connected people pays off. They can often tell us what is going on, even when the subjects themselves won’t.” Or maybe he should have put it, “can’t—because they’re gagged.”

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