NEW YORK - Charles W. Bailey - who edited The Minneapolis Tribune for most of the 1970s, when it was among the most polished of the nation’s midsize daily newspapers, after earlier winning renown as a coauthor of the best-selling Cold War novel “Seven Days in May’’ - died Tuesday in Englewood, N.J. He was 82.
The cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease, said his daughter Victoria, executive director of the Theater Development Fund in New York. Mr. Bailey died at the Lillian Booth Actors Home.
Written with Fletcher Knebel and published in 1962, “Seven Days in May’’ told of an attempted coup by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in May 1974 after the president negotiates a disarmament treaty with Russia. It was at the top of The New York Times best-seller list in early 1963 and was made into a movie, with Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, and Fredric March, in 1964.
But fiction writing was only a sideline for Mr. Bailey; his life’s work was journalism.
“Chuck Bailey was a classy newspaperman right out of the movies: tall, lean, black horn-rims, clipped voice, trench coat, smart about the workings of the world, and the soul of amiability,’’ Garrison Keillor wrote in an e-mail after learning of Mr. Bailey’s death. Keillor’s public radio program, “A Prairie Home Companion,’’ was first broadcast from St. Paul in 1974.
Fresh out of college, Mr. Bailey became a reporter at The Tribune in 1950. He was a Washington correspondent for the paper, Look magazine, and The Des Moines Register, all owned by the Cowles family, beginning in 1954. As The Tribune’s Washington bureau chief, he accompanied President Nixon to China in 1972.
He returned to Minneapolis that year to be the paper’s editor. Newly redesigned by Frank Ariss, with all-Helvetica headlines, ample white space, and boldly displayed photographs, it was among the most distinctive daily newspapers of the time.
In 1982, The Tribune, a morning paper, merged with its afternoon sister, The Minneapolis Star. Although Mr. Bailey had planned to step down at the end of that year and resume writing from Washington, his hand was forced in October when Cowles Media Co. said it would cut 75 employees, including 28 from the news staff, more than 10 percent of its total.
Mr. Bailey quit.
“This is a very serious mistake and one that will have grave consequences for the newspaper,’’ he said in a statement that he read to his colleagues.
He returned to Washington and was Washington editor for National Public Radio from 1984 to 1987. He also wrote “Conflicts of Interest: A Matter of Journalistic Ethics’’ (1984) and “The Land Was Ours’’ (1991).
Mr. Bailey seemed to have been born to the role of editor. Even in the ebullient 1970s, he was the model of gravity.
“I knew him in his Minneapolis days,’’ Keillor said, “and thought that if Harvard was how you got to be like Chuck, then I wish I had gone to Harvard.’’
Charles Waldo Bailey II was born in Boston to David and Catherine Ruth Bailey. His mother was a musician; his father wrote for The Boston Transcript before going to work as an administrator at Harvard and as chairman of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism.
Mr. Bailey graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1946 and from Harvard College in 1950. That year, he began his career at The Minneapolis Tribune and married Ann Card Bushnell. She died in 2010.
In addition to his daughter Victoria, Mr. Bailey leaves another daughter, Sarah, and a sister, Joanna Hodgman.
Years after leaving The Tribune, Mr. Bailey advocated that every paper adopt, as The Tribune had, the practice of employing an ombudsman, a readers’ representative to channel grievances. He maintained that it would ultimately serve the newspapers’ interest.
“An ombudsman helps his newspaper to be fair and helps persuade the public that it is fair,’’ Mr. Bailey wrote in The Washington Journalism Review in 1990.
“Newspapers are in the business of collecting and marketing facts,’’ he wrote. “If a paper makes enough errors, readers will stop believing it, and a little later on they will stop buying it.’’
Mr. Bailey wrote two other books with Knebel: “No High Ground,’’ about the Manhattan Project, in 1960, and the novel “Convention’’ in 1964. Knebel died in 1993.