Family, friends and colleagues remember Washington Informer editor


Funeral services were held on Monday, July 6 for Denise W. Barnes, a veteran journalist who served as managing editor of the Washington Informer for six years until she was hospitalized in December.

Barnes, 58, died on June 18.

She was born in Tucson, Arizona, on Dec. 14, 1956, to parents Sadie and Harold and grew up in Washington, D.C., where she lived most of her life.

Barnes’ aunt and uncle, Fannie and Frank Spencer, raised her and she went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Howard University before starting a more than 20 year career as a journalist, beginning with the old Washington Star which closed in 1981.

Later Barnes handled writing and other duties at National Public Radio before joining the Washington Times where she started as an editorial assistant before being promoted to reporter.

She served as a general assignment reporter on the Metro desk and later wrote feature stories for the paper’s Life Times.

Barnes covered community events, Washington society, arts and entertainment and she also profiled local personalities and was a beat reporter for the Weekend section, informing readership of family activities held locally with an educational or historic flair.

Prior to joining The Washington Informer, Barnes held the position of public affairs specialist at the D.C. Department of Human Services.

Those who knew her best, including her co-workers, shared their memories of Barnes.

“This has been a very difficult month for me as publisher of The Washington Informer,” said publisher Denise Rolark Barnes. “Earlier this month, I received the news that former Washington Informer Editor Alvin Peabody passed away following complications related to diabetes. Last week, I received the sad news that our editor Denise W. Barnes also passed away. I have had the pleasure of knowing Denise for more than 30 years. We often joked about the calls and cards of congratulations she received in 1985 when I married and took on the last name Barnes. My father, the late Dr. Calvin W. Rolark, called me one day in a rage after reading a Washington Times feature story about former Mayor Marion Barry written by Denise Barnes. He could not believe that his managing editor would write a story for a competitor newspaper but quickly calmed down once he realized it wasn’t me.

“The meek walked away but those who survived her muster admired her for her tenacity. She will be sorely missed. Her entire life was dedicated to telling untold stories and increasing literacy of those who read them,” Rolark Barnes said.

“I met Denise at the Washington Times in 1996 and we became fast friends,” said senior Washington Informer staff writer Barrington Salmon. “I enjoyed her wide-ranging knowledge, her intellectual curiosity and her deep, unerring precision to detail. She could be tough as an editor and we had our disagreements but it was only because we both wanted the best, cleanest copy to get in the paper. I treasured her friendship. We shared a lot of laughter and tears and were inseparable to the end. I will miss her.”

D. Kevin McNeir, who filled in for Barnes as managing editor, said she taught him more about writing than anyone.

“She was my friend and mentor. I have always loved being a journalist but with her guidance I discovered a new sense of joy and pride in my craft. We were kindred spirits and shared many good times,” he said. “While our time together was shorter than I would have liked, I will cherish each and every moment. My beloved friend is gone too soon.”