East Hampton Star's Publisher Joins L.I. Journalism Hall of Fame

Helen S. Rattray, who was inducted into the Long Island Journalism Hall of Fame on Wednesday, has been The East Hampton Star's publisher for 37 years. David E. Rattray

Helen S. Rattray, the publisher of The East Hampton Star and its former editor, was inducted Wednesday evening into the Long Island Journalism Hall of Fame along with Jimmy Breslin of the New York Daily News.

The Press Club of Long Island celebrated the inductees and honored journalists from across the Island in a range of media outlets and categories during an awards dinner at Woodbury Country Club.

Carl Corry’s name was added to the contributors wing of the press club's hall of fame for his work with the club and with the Society of Professional Journalists.

The press club named The Suffolk Times as the best community weekly and the Northforker Winepress magazine as best magazine. Newsday won the press club’s Robert W. Greene Public Service Award “for its investigative series on the systemic flaws in Long Island’s judicial system that have allowed hundreds of cases to be sealed from public view despite regulations designed to make the courts more transparent,” according to a release.

Ms. Rattray was introduced on Wednesday by Jack Graves, The Star’s sports editor and a colleague of hers throughout her tenure at the paper. “Journalistically, she’s the tops, given her keen mind, infallible bullshit detector, tenacity, fairness, passionate allegiance to justice and the rule of law, and to her attention to grammatical detail,” Mr. Graves said. He drew a laugh when he said, “She will argue with you over a comma till you may be rendered comatose.” Her instincts, he said, “have always been sure.”

He recalled an instance many years ago when four severed calves heads were found on the beach in Springs. “We were all scratching our heads,” he said, with all sorts of explanations being bandied about. “Had they been ritually slaughtered by drug-crazed hippies? Then as we had more or less given up, Helen asked, ‘Doesn’t Craig Claiborne live near here?’ Well he did, but what did that have do to with anything? Plenty, as it turned out. . . . He and Pierre Franey has been trying to make tete de veau vinaigrette, and in a martini-fueled pique flung the unshorn calves heads over the dunes as good riddance.”

Ms. Rattray became editor and publisher of The Star 37 years ago, upon the death of her husband, Everett T. Rattray, but she had worked alongside him since the summer of 1960, shortly after they were married. “When I became editor, a lot of people were surprised that I could handle it,” she said Thursday. “I wasn’t surprised because I’d been at it for years, with Everett.” She is proud of the innovations she has brought to the paper over the years, including establishing an arts section and a weekly column called “Guestwords,” penned by outside writers, many of them well-known in their fields. She prides herself as well on the paper’s forward-thinking attitude. “We used ‘Ms.’ before The Times did,” she said, and ran announcements of same-sex unions long before same-sex marriage became legal in New York State.

She has always had a special regard for The Star’s letters pages. “Ev used to call it Freedom Hall,” she said Thursday. The Star’s policy is to publish all letters that are exclusive to the paper, provided they are not libelous or obscene. And over the years, “there were often really offensive letters,” Ms. Rattray said. While she may have disagreed with their content, she argued for and defended their publication as a First Amendment right, saying that "you don’t need a law to protect speech that everybody likes.”

Ms. Rattray continued as editor for 21 years before turning that job over to her son David E. Rattray.