Though he held other positions as well, Irving M. Kravsow was the archetypal editor: feisty, savvy, well-connected, hard-driving. He brought those qualities to The Courant's news operation for four decades after World War II.
Mr. Kravsow, who died Friday evening at the age of 87, was full of sound and fury: Reporters lived in fear of a dressing down for making an error, missing a detail or, anything but this, being beaten by The Hartford Times (or worse, television news). If a reporter got to work and found a Hartford Times clip under his or her typewriter platen with the telltale note "See me. IMK," he or she could be pretty sure it was going to be a bad morning.
But behind the periodic volcanic explosion was a sense of purpose, of getting stories — good, important, local stories — first and getting them exactly right, the goals that remain the gold standard of quality journalism. And most reporters grew to appreciate Mr. Kravsow's passion, tough-love discipline and high standards, and would break their butts for him.
Generations of journalists remembered him over the weekend. We recall a day when a news story had somehow turned the name Douglas into Bouglas. "How did we do this?" he stormed. "No one in recorded history has ever been named Bouglas."
Or the story about his allergy to eating bananas, which would make his throat constrict, so he avoided them assiduously. Once when he was fuming on the city desk, assistant city editor Malcolm Johnson crossed two bananas as if fending off a vampire and yelled "Back ... back." Mr. Kravsow collapsed in laughter.
Mr. Kravsow grew up in the North End of Hartford, graduated from Weaver High School, served in the Navy in World War II and graduated from Central Connecticut State University, where he was The Courant's campus correspondent. He joined the newspaper in 1948, when its offices were still on State Street, as a sports writer, then switched to news in 1950.
The road to the top was not pre-paved for a Jewish kid from the North End in a traditional Yankee culture such as The Courant's of that era, but Mr. Kravsow climbed that road by dint of hard work, and smart work. On the night police beat, he'd sometimes show up with a box of doughnuts to break the ice with the officers. He once trounced the competition on a story about a major riot at the old Wethersfield prison by tying up the only pay phone in the building. He of course was the only reporter who knew there was only one pay phone in the building.
Mr. Kravsow covered labor, government and politics, then moved into a number of editing chairs. He became city editor in 1966, and turned that position into a powerful driver of news coverage.
He became managing editor in 1973 and among other things created the paper's first investigative team, directed the coverage of the Hartford Civic Center roof collapse and — because he had a keen sense of racial justice — pushed for more minority hiring. He was the most powerful man at the most powerful news outlet in the state. He understood that a newspaper's fortune is its reputation for fairness and accuracy, and did all he could to further those standards at The Courant.
He ended his career in the mid-1980s as a columnist, his columns marked by the accuracy, good sense and clear writing he spent so many years espousing to young journalists.
Former reporter Bill Grava spoke for many when he wrote, "I will remember him until I can't remember anything at all."Copyright © 2015, CT Now