Alfred Balk, 80, magazine editor and reporter

By Cara Buckley
New York Times / December 1, 2010

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NEW YORK — Alfred Balk, a reporter, author, and magazine editor who wrote groundbreaking articles about housing segregation and the Nation of Islam, and whose refusal to identify a confidential source led to a landmark court case, died Thursday at his home in Huntley, Ill, at 80.

The cause was colon cancer.

Mr. Balk wrote for The Saturday Evening Post, Harper’s, and The New York Times Magazine, among other publications. He edited Saturday Review and the Columbia Journalism Review, and taught at Columbia and Syracuse universities.

Mr. Balk rose to journalistic prominence in the 1960s with “Confession of a Block-Buster,’’ an article for The Saturday Evening Post that revealed a speculator’s methods of taking advantage of segregated housing by buying properties from white families and then selling them at inflated prices to black families.

Mr. Balk was sued by a homeowners group that wanted him to identify the speculator, for whom he used a pseudonym in the article. A US District Court ruled in Mr. Balk’s favor, and in 1972 the Supreme Court let that decision stand.

Mr. Balk also collaborated with Alex Haley on a pioneering article tracing the rise of the Nation of Islam. Haley later expanded on this subject in “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.’’