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John Henning, consummate pro

Posted by Don Aucoin  July 8, 2010 01:33 PM

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I always considered John Henning the David Broder of Boston broadcast journalism.

I first got to know John, who died last night at age 73, when I began covering the Massachusetts State House for the Globe in 1992. He had already been a big name for two decades by then, but (like Broder), John remained a dogged reporter, prowling the State House halls in search of stories, never content to rest on his laurels.

He was an imposing presence, more statemanslike in his demeanor than most of the pols, in fact. Alongside the rest of the disheveled State House press corps. he looked like a senator, not a reporter. But he was not stuffy. John had a ready wit, whether the subject was politics or sports or TV news (he took a dim view of the whiz-bang pace and overstuffed story-count that many local TV news stations have adopted in Boston and around the country).

As Charlie Baker pointed out today, John possessed an extraordinary amount of institutional knowledge, and I often tapped into that knowledge in my early days on the State House beat, asking him questions about the often-mysterious folkways of Beacon Hill that he always answered with great patience and not a trace of condescension.

John's gravitas came in handy one day in 1996 when he and I became the target of irate Ross Perot fans who heckled us as we prepared to ask questions of Perot during an appearance to endorse Bill Weld over John Kerry for US Senate. After a stern look and a few withering words from John, the hecklers fell silent, and we were able to do our job and conduct an interview of Perot.

I wasn't much surprised that John had that effect on the crowd, because whether you worked along alongside him or only saw him on TV, John Henning was one of those guys who always commanded respect.

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