I was heartbroken to hear of the passing of my friend, Larry Beaupre, too young, at the age of 68. He was still working, running a newspaper, serving the public trust. I would have expected no less. We have lost one of America's great journalists and newsroom leaders.
Larry hired me to be assistant managing editor/business at the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1993. Gannett had brought him in to turn around a newspaper that was losing readers to national papers and seen as way too cozy with the local power structure. This was in my turnaround days, as well, and business news was an area of particular focus in asserting the paper's ability to produce independent, sophisticated journalism. For three years, Gannett let us do it right, and the readership situation was fixed. We shined the light on every sacred cow in town, and Larry always had my back. He allowed me to assemble top talent, even as he was hiring top-notch people across the newsroom while unleashing the great journalists that was already there. We were young and strong, as Bob Seger sings. It seems not like yesterday, but like an hour ago.
Larry understood that a generic newspaper would fail in this one-of-a-kind city, and his Enquirer reflected Cincinnati in all its unique glory, beauty, complexity and sometime insularity and ugliness. The result was a distinctive and distinguished must-read major metropolitan daily newspaper.
One of the "Rochester Boys" who rose to high leadership positions in Gannett, Larry had covered the Attica prison riot in 1971, part of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team at the Rochester Times-Union. In his office was a photo of him and his colleagues, walking down a road near the prison, wearing trenchcoats, looking every bit the tough reporters. But Larry, characteristically, was smiling. Although Gannett evolved into a different company, Larry always remained a true newspaperman, a journalist committed to the public trust, a man who never doubted that serious journalism was essential for our democracy. He was a great newsroom leader and mentor for so many. I was honored to be among them.
Under Larry's leadership, we produced a five-day series on secretive financier Carl Lindner, the most powerful and feared man in Cincinnati. The series was thorough, revealing, fair, but delved into the many controversies involving Lindner that local readers weren't used to seeing. After all, Lindner once owned the newspaper. It was exhaustively reported by Patti Gallagher Newberry and Mark Braykovich. The series ran and decisively established the new Enquirer. In preparing this blockbuster, I was most struck by Larry's care and skill as an editor.
The later scandal that forced Larry out also involved Lindner's Chiquita Brands. I think there is more to this than will ever be publicly known. A reporter apparently got the code to listen in on Chiquita voice mails; he was a hot dog, and betrayed Larry's trust. However, not one word of the story was ever disputed on the facts, even though Gannett produced a true retraction and paid Lindner big bucks. My experience with Larry on the earlier Lindner series indicates this series would have been "lawyered" at the highest levels of Gannett. Somebody at the top lost his nerve and threw Larry under the bus. The Enquirer would never be better than it was under Larry Beaupre, when Cincinnati finally, if only for a time, got a newspaper worthy of this great city.
He went on to make other papers better. His love of journalism and mentoring young journalists never ceased. Larry was brave, kind, patient, still idealistic, gracious and wise — and a true mensch. He will be so missed. My prayers go to his family.