Robert R. Comstock, a widely respected statehouse reporter and newspaper editor who served as a former top aide to Gov. Brendan Byrne, died on February 25. He was 93.
He died of complications related to COVID-19, The Record reported on Sunday.
After a brief stint at the Ridgewood News, Comstock joined The Record in 1953 and was the statehouse reporter and public affairs editor until 1973, when he was named assistant editor. His weekly column, “The Record on Politics” became a staple for the state’s political elite.
In March 1975, Comstock took a leave of absence from The Record to become Byrne’s public information director, a post now known as communications director. He replaced Herb Wolfe, who went back to his job as assistant editor of the Trenton Times.
At the time, the first-term governor was struggling with low job approvals of around 20%.
Comstock announced in January 1977 that he would return to The Record in March as the new executive editor. He replaced Carl Jelinghaus, who had stepped down as editor and remained the newspaper’s vice president. Comstock added the VP title to his portfolio when Jelinghaus retired.
The revolving door attracted some criticism when The Record endorsed Byrne for re-election in 1977, although Comstock said he recused himself from those discussions and the Bergen County newspaper endorsed former state labor commissioner Joseph Hoffman against Byrne in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.
While working at The (Bergen) Record, Byrne appointed him to serve on the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority.
He was part of an era of New Jersey journalism giants that included Joe Katz of the Newark News, John Kolesar of the Associated Press, George Cable Wright of the New York Times, George Schick of the Trenton Times and S. Bolton Schwartz, known as Boley, who covered Trenton for the Herald News. Comstock led the newspaper during a time when it was hugely influential and admired.
After his retirement from The Record, he served assistant director of the Rutgers University Journalism Institute and as a member of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct. He also worked at a lobbying firm that was headed by Alan Marcus, a prominent Bergen County Republican insider.