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News of Nora Ephron’s death spread prematurely Tuesday when writer Liz Smith published an obituary honoring the 71-year-old journalist and screenwriter.
Smith told The Associated Press that she had spoken to Ephron’s son Jacob on Tuesday morning and was told that Ephron was dying. She said when she heard that funeral plans had been arranged, she published the column on the website Women on the Web.
“I was confused because I was told to come to the funeral on Thursday,” Smith said.
Ephron was born into a writing career. Her parents were screenwriters, and her mother once said “Everything is copy,” according to The New York Times obituary.
Ephron started in journalism as a “mail girl” at Newsweek, where Jacob, her son with ex-husband Carl Bernstein, is now a contributor. Jacob Bernstein also contributes to The New York Times.
Ephron left Newsweek after a year to work as a reporter for the New York Post, where she stayed for five years.
“The Post was a terrible newspaper in the era I worked there,” she wrote, but added that the experience taught her to write short and to write around a subject, since the kinds of people she was assigned to cover were never going to give her much interview time.
Ephron moved on to magazine writing.
“I am not a new journalist, whatever that is,” she once wrote. “I just sit here at the typewriter and bang away at the old forms.”
Her first attempt at screenwriting was a rewrite with Bernstein of “All the President’s Men,” based on his Watergate reporting with Bob Woodward. Her first original screenplay was “Silkwood,” which impressed the film’s director, Mike Nichols (now married to ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer). Ephron followed that with “Heartburn,” a thinly-veiled recounting of her marriage and divorce from Bernstein, and then most famously came “When Harry Met Sally.” Ephron’s final film was “Julie & Julia,” starring Meryl Streep, who played the fictionalized Ephron in “Heartburn.”
In the last several years, Ephron has published two books about aging and blogged for The Huffington Post. The last post published with her byline, on June 10, is a slideshow of quotes about divorce.
Huffington said Ephron’s writing gave credibility to The Huffington Post when the publication was in its infancy.
“She gave me courage to go on with it,” Huffington said, “even a lot of my friends, people who loved me, said ‘Don’t do it. Why do you need this? It’s not going to work. Most things on the internet don’t work.’ She said, ‘Do it, I’m here for you.’ And she blogged.”
Ephron, who died of complications from leukemia, is survived by her husband, two sons and three sisters.