SCRANTON – Larry Beaupre's career in journalism began in upstate New York, where as a young reporter he was part of the team that produced the Rochester Times-Union's Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the Attica prison riots of 1971.
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It ended in Scranton, where as managing editor of The Times-Tribune, he led the newspaper to hundreds of awards and oversaw the transformation of Times-Shamrock Newspapers into the largest news-gathering team in Northeast Pennsylvania.
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In the 50 years in between, Beaupre built a reputation as hard-nosed newspaperman who saw opportunities where others saw only obstacles, once even using a carrier pigeon to get photographs to the newsroom on deadline.
A husband, father, friend, mentor and leader, Beaupre touched the lives and guided the careers of countless journalists who mourned his death Sunday at the age of 68.
"He was the single most important mentor I had in my career, and really, really the finest journalist that I've ever known," said J. Keith Moyer, a longtime friend, former colleague and senior fellow in the journalism school at the University of Minnesota, summing up the feelings of scores of journalists who worked with Beaupre.
A veteran newspaperman who took great pride in vastly improving the newspapers he edited through a low-key style that demanded excellence, he was a tough, demanding boss who challenged his reporters, editors, photographers and graphic artists to be the best. He was also a kind, supportive leader with a sharp, often self-deprecating sense of humor.
"He was very funny. I don't think many people knew that, because he could be so intimidating," said Laura Schwed, who, along with her husband, Peter Johnson, worked as editors under Beaupre for 11 years at newspapers in Cincinnati and Westchester.
"He was definitely one of the editors I learned the most from," Schwed said. "He was very disciplined and extremely ethical. He was a terrific editor and every newspaper he went to, he drastically improved."
Beaupre could be intimidating, but he wasn't unreasonable, Johnson said.
"When I became night editor in Westchester, people were afraid to make decisions," Johnson said.
"He told me, 'I don't want you to base your decisions on what you think I want you to do. I want you to use your own judgment. I may disagree with you, but if your position is based on solid reason, I'll back you up.' And he was true to his word."
An Illinois native, Beaupre was trained in journalism at the University of Illinois, where he served the college newspaper, the Daily Illini, as sports editor in 1964 and 1965 and as editor-in-chief in 1965 and 1966.
He earned a bachelor of science degree from the school in communications in 1966 and a master's degree in journalism in 1968, and got his first reporting job at the Rochester (N.Y.) Times-Union the same year, but was drafted to serve in the Army around the same time. He served from 1968-1970 at Fort Sill in Oklahoma as a specialist in the public information office.
When he returned to Rochester as a reporter, he contributed to the newspaper's Pulitzer-Prize-winning coverage of the Attica Prison riots. Over the years, he rose through the ranks, becoming the newspaper's managing editor in 1980.
In April 1984, he moved on to become vice president and executive editor of the Gannett Suburban Newspapers in White Plains, N.Y.
"He certainly made the Westchester papers better," said Moyer, whom Beaupre hired as features editor in Rochester and who followed Beaupre to Westchester years later. "And then he went to Cincinnati and made Cincinnati better."
Beaupre spent six years at the Cincinnati Enquirer, also owned by Gannett. The company named him its "Editor of the Year" in 1988. Three times, he led newspapers that won the company's Most Improved Newspaper award. Twice, the Enquirer was named Ohio's best, becoming known for extensive investigations that exposed wrongdoing.
The newspaper published an 18-page special section on how Chiquita Brands International, headed by a wealthy local businessman, had exploited laborers in South America and violated environmental laws. Without Beaupre's knowledge, one of the story's reporters illegally hacked into Chiquita's voice-mail system to gather evidence.
The newspaper published a full retraction and apologized. Beaupre always stood by the story, though he denounced the reporter's methods.
After leaving Gannett, Beaupre ran a newspaper consulting business for seven months.
One of his clients was The Scranton Times.
The paper was going through tough times in the operation of its newsroom. Harold F. Marion, the newspaper's general manager at the time, said Beaupre produced a detailed report of the problems and had him help search for a new managing editor for the newsroom.
Beaupre developed a list of about 26 candidates and planned to stay on as interim managing editor for a year, said Marion, who really wanted to hire Beaupre for the job.
"I offered him the position, and he said, 'No,' he'd just as soon not do that," Marion said.
As Beaupre interviewed other candidates, he had a change of heart.
"He came in one day and asked if the opening was still available for him. I said, 'You got it.' " Marion said. "We were thrilled. He took us from an era that was really not our strongest era at that time to a real professional staff."
In Scranton, the smallest market in which he ever worked, Beaupre found his footing again and told friends and colleagues his work here was some of the best in his career. He often said he relished the fact the newspaper's publishers actually read the newspaper. He said The Times-Tribune was large enough to produce first-rate journalism "but also small enough that I could get my arms around."
"This one taught me the real meaning of local news and the impact you can have on the community with a really vigorous newspaper. ... I have enjoyed getting up every day and coming to work and trying to produce the best local newspaper we possibly could," Beaupre said in August, when it was announced he would retire at the end of the year.
"I always said that he was by far my best hire," Marion said. "He did the most for us. We used to put him in charge of all major things that we were doing, all of our different researches that we would do, and all of our strategic plans ... Whenever you gave him a task, it was done to the n-th degree."
The publishers said they treasured Beaupre's honesty and integrity.
"He had the ability to tell the truth and he would tell us what he thought," Publisher Matt Haggerty said. "Sometimes, it's not what you wanted to hear, but you knew it was the truth and we would often be very interested in what he thought because we knew we would get the truth."
Beaupre "re-created, rebuilt and redefined that newsroom," Publisher George Lynett Jr. said. "He made a profound impact on this newsroom."
Beaupre's "passion for excellence was contagious," Publisher Scott Lynett said.
Published in The News Item on Nov. 15, 2012