Bo Connor recalled

Dateline: Mon 03 Mar 2014

Wonderful and well-deserved tributes have been written this past week to Lawrence (Larry) "Bo" Connor.

The dignified, gentle, witty, and kindly former city editor and managing editor of the Indianapolis Star, who died Feb. 28 at age 88, was remembered by Dan Carpenter as loving, unpretentious and resilient when it came to work, and then choosing "the better part" ("Boss of all Bosses"), and by John Krull as a member of the "old school" school of journalism. Both recollections are published by Forefront via the Indianapolis Business Journal. Forefront is an IBJ venture promoting "stimulating commentary" from Hoosier "thought leaders."

Here are the links, first to former Indy Star columnist Carpenter and secondly to former News columnist Krull:

http://www.indianaforefront.com/boss-of-all-bosses/

http://www.indianaforefront.com/bo-connor-and-what-weve-lost/

My own impression of Bo mirrors what Krull and Carpenter have written. I'll share just one short anecdote which speaks volumes to me of the man's value system and character.

I was hired in February 1978 by the Star as a copy editor. I worked part-time, two or three nights a week. With two little boys at home, I chose to put my writing career on the back burner. Still, printer's ink is in the blood, and I was always hungry to dig into a good story. Being in the newsroom was my drug.

That spring, ads began appearing in the Star's classified section for a new abortion services provider in Indianapolis. The clinic was located not far from my neighborhood, on Meridian Street just south of 38th.

Something about these ads -- if nothing else, the brassy trumpeting of abortion services by way of relentless advertising in the local newspaper -- struck me as unsavory. It was a pure hunch; I felt there was something possibly crooked or at least untoward about the services.

Strictly speaking, I did not work for Bo. I was not a reporter. My boss was Frank Widner, copy desk chief. But I typed up my observations about this clinic and sent them in a memo to Bo. I asked him if it would be OK if I checked out the facility. We met briefly and discussed my plan. He was cautious. but he gave me a green light. 

To cut to the chase: I was never able to get anything solid on that clinic. In truth, I did not try too awfully hard; I was, after all, working part time because I had a family who came first.

That fall, in November, the Chicago Sun-Times published a series of prize-winning iinvestigative stories on profiteering abortion clinics in that city run by the same people who owned the clinic in Indy. My instinct had been correct. What struck me about this whole experience was not the story that got away, but that the editor had said yes.

Maybe this seems like a trifling anecdote. After all, it goes nowhere; no prizes were won, no story ever even saw the light of day.

But that's not the part that has stayed with me. Bo trusted people in the newsroom. His own standards and integrity were so high that it seemed to me he extended his value system to others. Sometimes his trust worked out beautifully -- after all, he was part of the team at the Star that won the Pulitzer for a series on police corruption, published in 1974.  Other times, because this is real life, nothing came of his trust....except, of course, that he won loyalty from his staff. Many of us respected and loved him simply because he gave his faith in us so willingly.

 

 

 

Comments

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2014-03-04 02:37:20

hendy [Member] said:

The nervous system of a publication relies on the solidness of its backbone. Today, the IndyStar is in shambles. Along the way, however, many of its reporters fought "the good fight". As a team, the output could be spectacular. And it could be divisive, and could have the stench of squabbles, paunch, and piker-ism.

There were stars and shining lights; you were one of them. Tom Keating will always be in my heart, but also George Stuteville, Dan Carpenter, Shaunnesy, and a raft of others, now spearheaded by Erika Smith, who carries the burden of zeal and altruism on her shoulders.

Ain't much left. Bo herded cats. Cat herders have a thankless job, but some do it with dignity and even mirth. That he entrusted his charges is a very good thing. Leadership requires it.

2014-03-04 03:46:21

russ leonard [unverified] said:

Here's a Bo Connor city editor story to which only Ernie Wilkinson and I can attest.
I worked the state desk 3 to midnight shift when Bo received a tip of skulduggery in Shelby County involving prosecutor George Barger and defense attorney Bob Good. He assigned me to go to Shelbyville, check with klaw enforcement and court records to see if there was fire with the smoke. After a few days of verification I spoent about 4 hours a day digging up material prior to my 3-12 shift. I had many hours of overtime and Bo had told me he couldn't present that to RPE but could give me extra vacation days at time and a half. As I recall I had around 70 hours which gave me an extra two weeks and a couple days.
The time was spent taking son Jack (former copy boy) to Fort Dix en route to Germany, and the rest of the family camping as I grew a beard.
The collusion story ran as an 8-day page one series. Later Barger received a sentence of 20 years in prison, and Good 33 years.

2014-03-06 14:32:06

George Stuteville [unverified] said:

Hendy, my thanks for including me in the best group of folks I have ever known.

I only learned about Bo today. I was in Nashville and buried by work there and hadn't really had time to catch up with Indy happenings.

I so respected Bo Connor. There was nothing like getting a note from him on Monday after our big Sunday editions. On those rare times when one awaited me, it was always typed out in blue on onion skin paper. I have a couple in my scrap book. His highest praise was telling the reporter that his wife made it all the way through a piece!

I have to think that there are other folks of Bo's stature and integrity out there yet.

George

2014-03-07 16:02:46

hendy [Member] said:

George, you guys were giants. Understand that there were two things that got my mother's heart going in the morning, strong Folgers Coffee and The Star. She railed against the misogynist, racist, small-minded "knotheads" that ran Indy and the money that continues to plunder its common sense and kick its poor to the curb.

There were the empty suits of Birch Bayh's son, the vacuousness of party politics, and the plunder of Indiana's natural resources as though they were ass-wipe.

But there were those with a soul, a conscience, and bravery. They had tintype behind them. And they fought the good fight. Now there's at most, Erika Smith.... offset by the mindless hate of Varvel.

2014-03-09 01:34:23

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