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Washington Post TV Critic Was 79

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Tom Shales, a Pulitzer-winning television critic at the Washington Post who spent nearly 40 years at the publication, has died. He was 79.

Shales died Saturday at a hospital in Fairfax County, Va., from complications due to COVID-19 and renal failure, his caretaker, Victor Herfurth, told the Washington Post.

Shales began his career as the Post’s chief TV critic in 1977, and was known for his incisive and sharp commentary on various forms of television, from cable dramas to network sitcoms, from State of the Union speeches to late-night shows. He was first hired by the Post in 1972 as a style writer.

In 1988, Shales won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism, becoming the fourth TV reviewer to earn the honor in journalism.

Shales took a buyout from the Washington Post in 2006, but remained on contract for an additional four years, according to the paper, “before being, in his view, unceremoniously edged out because of a salary of about $400,000 per year.”

Thomas William Shales was born in Elgin, Ill., on Nov. 3, 1944. He attended Elgin Community College before transferring to American University, where he became the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.

After graduating in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Shales worked as an entertainment editor at the D.C. Examiner until the early ’70s.

In addition to his work for the Washington Post, Shales wrote for the Huffington Post, TelevisionWeek and Roger Ebert’s film and television review website. He wrote two books — “Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live” (2002) and “Those Guys Have All the Fun: “Inside the World of ESPN” (2011) — with fellow Post reporter James Andrew Miller.

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