From The New York Times:
At age 34, she became city editor of The Minneapolis Star, which later became The Star Tribune after a merger. Four years later she jumped to a rival paper, The St. Paul Pioneer Press, where she served as managing editor and then executive editor. At The Pioneer Press, she oversaw two projects that led the paper to win the first Pulitzer Prizes in the paper’s history, in 1986 and 1988.
Ms. Howell left The Pioneer Press in 1990 to become the chief of the Washington bureau for the Newhouse newspaper chain, a post she held for 15 years. Her staff at Newhouse News Service also won a Pulitzer while she was there.
From 2005 to 2008, she was the ombudsman of The Washington Post, winning friends and admirers despite having a job that meant publicly criticizing her colleagues.
“She was great fun to be around, and she had a reputation which she relished of being a great gossip,” said Fred Hiatt, the editorial page editor of The Post. “And it was true, but she was a gossip not in the mean-spirited sense, but simply because she was wildly interested in everything and everybody, and in people’s stories.”
Ms. Howell made a point of mentoring her reporters, helping them develop into book writers and often advising them years after they no longer worked for her. Among the authors she helped were John Sandford, Chuck Logan and H. G. Bissinger.
Though she had asthma, she seemed anything but frail — she was loud, blunt, funny, fiercely competitive and floridly profane. The contrasting sides of her personality earned her two nicknames in the Twin Cities: Mother Mary Deborah and the Dragon Lady.