NEW ORLEANS -- Larry Lorenz, a retired Loyola University journalism professor and local TV host who as a young wire-service editor helped break the news of President Kennedy’s assassination, died Sunday at Touro Infirmary. He was 79.
He would’ve celebrated his 80th birthday Monday, his wife said.
Lorenz worked at Loyola for 30 years, serving as a professor and administrator, before retiring in 2011. Outside of the university, he was best known as the host of “Informed Sources,” WYES-TV’s news-in-review program, in which he moderated a 30-minute panel discussion among local print and broadcast reporters every Friday evening from 1987 to 2013.
While some journalists are only comfortable in one medium, Lorenz moved effortlessly between the printed and spoken word.
A former Jesuit seminarian and soldier who completed tours on Okinawa and at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, he began his career on the print side working for United Press International, once a fierce competitor of the Associated Press, in Chicago.
On the day President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Lorenz was among the members of the team that sent out the news of Kennedy’s death -- the bulletin that Walter Cronkite read on the air as he choked back tears.
Although one UPI newsroom staffer collapsed from the development, Lorenz continued to hammer away at his keyboard, he recalled in a story about that day he posted on his Loyola website.
“I typed a bulletin and a follow-up paragraph.
‘(DALLAS) -- PRESIDENT KENNEDY IS DEAD.
HE WAS SHOT TO DEATH BY AN ASSASSIN IN THE STREETS OF DALLAS.
HE WAS 45.’’’
When asked, Lorenz would speak of that day in his animated stentorian voice -- but would always quiet down by the end of his account.
“It still affects me” he told Chicago’s WBEZ-FM in a 2013 interview. “I don’t know whether it still affects other people or not. I’ve wonder whether holding it in that day -- whether that hasn’t had kind of a residual effect on me.”
He remembered leaving the UPI bureau after his shift and walking to the Chicago Press Club. “It was raining. … I was walking along Michigan Avenue and I started to cry. And all I could think was I was glad it was raining, that people couldn’t tell that I was crying.”
During his time with UPI, Lorenz also covered the civil rights movement and Cuban missile crisis.
Born Alfred Lawrence Lorenz Jr., he moved from Florida to Georgia to Kansas as a boy thanks to his father’s government job. He completed his undergraduate degree in journalism at Marquette University in Milwaukee. He later earned advanced degrees from Southern Illinois University.
As a graduate student, he helped to cover the tumultuous 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Lorenz returned to Marquette as a professor after his time at UPI and continued to report for radio and TV stations while there.
After a year at New Mexico State University, he landed at Loyola in 1981, where he was hired as chairman of the Department of Communications, now the School of Mass Communication. He was later named A. Louis Read Distinguished Professor.
Lorenz literally wrote the book on news writing that his students used. A no-frills newsman, his textbook was titled simply: “News: Reporting and Writing.” He contributed many other articles to scholarly publications about journalism and journalism history and was well-known at Loyola for teaching a course on journalism history.
His teaching style was straightforward and no-nonsense, and his critiques of student journalists could often be blunt. But the sometimes gruff comments came from someone who knew what he was talking about and wanted only the best for his students, recalled one former colleague.
"He was a consummate newsman and a fine professor,” said Liz Scott Monaghan, a contributing editor for New Orleans Magazine, who taught with Lorenz at Loyola.
Even after retiring, his wife recalled, his inbox was often filled with emails to and from former students and UPI colleagues.
A former president of the Press Club of New Orleans, Lorenz received its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001. For more than 30 years, he also organized the annual Tom Bell Silver Scribe journalism contest for high school journalists, sponsored by the Press Club and Loyola.
Lorenz retired from Loyola in 2011 as the A. Louis Read Distinguished Professor. He was presented in 2009 with the university’s Dux Academicus award, the highest honor a Loyola professor can receive.
“There’s really nothing quite as satisfying as walking across the campus at end of day, with sun going down and students sitting on those benches, and saying to yourself, ‘This is a pretty damn good life,’” he told The Maroon, Loyola’s student newspaper, in a 2002 interview.
His role as moderator of “Informed Sources” kept him in touch with many of the local journalists he helped teach and mentor at Loyola, as some of them went on to appear as guests on the program. The reporters’ roundtable, now in its 33rd year, is low-key by design, and Lorenz’s straightforward style helped him fit well into the moderator’s role for more than 25 years.
"This kind of thing is important for people, so they can get a sense of what is behind the news," Lorenz told Times-Picayune TV writer Mark Lorando in a story marking the program’s 10th anniversary. "There are things you can't always put into a newscast. ... We can give the viewer a better sense of being inside the story, at the heart of it, instead of just the receiving end."
Survivors include his wife, Kathleen Condon Lorenz; three daughters, Abby Lorenz McClure, Kate Lorenz Lesniak and Mary Lorenz; two sons, Patrick Lorenz and Bob Lorenz; and three grandchildren.
Visitation will be Friday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Jacob Schoen and Son Funeral Home, 3827 Canal St. A funeral Mass will be said Saturday at noon at Holy Name of Jesus Church, 6367 St. Charles Ave.