Thomas J. Bogdon, Kansas City Journalist Dead at 69
By Daniel Starling, Managing Editor, KCTribune
A lion of Kansas City journalism will roar no more. A distinguished 40-year career for journalist Thomas J. Bogdon ended after a long illness Saturday, January 16, 2010. He was 69.
The native of Kansas City, Missouri, succumbed to pneumonia on January 16, 2010 at the University of Kansas Medical Center after a courageous battle with lung cancer. Until the final days of his life, Tom remained a working journalist, directing his latest project, the online news weekly KCTribune.com, from his hospital bed.
Tom was born on March 5, 1940, to Ruth and Walter Bogdon of Kansas City, Mo.—of Bogdon Candy fame. He is survived by his brother, Jon and his wife, Joan Bogdon of Shawnee, Kan.; a sister, Ann Ninneman of Merriam, Kan.; and many nieces and nephews.
“He was a great reporter, in my opinion,” said Dr. Charles Wheeler, the former mayor of Kansas City, Mo. The two had known each other since 1964, when Wheeler entered politics. “I always turned to Tom for in-depth reporting on a certain subject and he never let me down. It was what he was most proud of—his reporting.”
Tom attended Rockhurst High School, but admitted to spending part of his youth sneaking down to 12th Street to listen to jazz or hanging out in Union Station. These activities solidified his love of music, trains and Kansas City landmarks.
Upon graduating from Bishop Hogan in 1958, Tom joined the United States Coast Guard Reserves to fulfill his military obligations. Later, he went on to attend Washington University in St. Louis where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism.
In the early 1960s, Tom joined the staff of the former Kansas City Times—the city's morning newspaper as a general assignment reporter. He climbed the ranks to become City Hall reporter, where he relished covering local politics. Tom quickly developed a reputation for being a tenacious investigative journalist who cared deeply for Kansas City and the craft of journalism.
“He was very thorough,” said Wes Lyle, longtime friend and photographer who worked with Tom at the Kansas City Times. “He got to the heart of things. He wanted to be accurate and if he got a line of thought, he wouldn’t let go of it until he got the story.”
After leaving the Times in the late 1970s Tom became the Editor of the Richmond (Mo.) Daily News where he was remembered as being a fine writer who liked to stir things up.
The stress of daily newspaper reporting forced Tom to take a sabbatical from journalism for a few years. But Tom could not stand being on the sidelines too long, and reentered the news weekly game working as editor of the View—predecessor of the New Times. Tom also contributed articles to The Pitch and the Union Beacon before becoming the editor of the Kansas City Labor Times. After the Labor Times folded in 1996, Tom was hired as the editor of Kansas City Labor Beacon, its competitor. While Tom was covering the Kansas City labor community, he was a member of the Communication Workers of America, Local 6320.
“He was one of a kind,” said Mike Damico, IBEW Local 124 financial secretary. “It didn't take long to realize an interview with Tom was an exercise in patience! Of course the result was high quality, insightful and triple-checked for accuracy.
“I think in Tom there resided an understanding of the worth of people and he was able to coax those notions from us when others could not,” added Damico. “He told stories in a way that captured the everyman.”
While working for different newspapers over the years, Tom always had a dream to have his own publication. He finally realized that dream on July 4, 2008, when he launched KCTribune, an online news weekly that covers greater Kansas City. Tom served as publisher, editor and reporter until his illness no longer allowed. The staff has decided to keep the online paper going in his honor.
Tom was a respected member of the Redemptorist Catholic Church, where he was a Deacon, and worked tirelessly through his writing to be a loyal defender of the ordinary man, organized labor, Union Station, light rail and the Democratic Party.
“Tom argued with us over the pressing issues of the world,” remembered John and Karen Wright who volunteered with Tom on KKFI’s Heartland Labor Forum radio show. “Although we didn't always agree with Tom, he was an intellectual sparring partner whom we respected.
“He was always thinking of his next project, his next story and his next adventure,” remembered the Wrights. “His actions were often the catalyst needed. Tom was a journalist, tried and true. We respected him and cared for him. He will be missed in our lives.”
Tom loved the outdoors, canoeing with friends, listening to Royals' baseball on the radio, live music, local politics and most of all, Kansas City. He was a loyal friend and gentle person who believed in a moral code that most found to be old-fashioned but was by no means conservative. Tom was always interested in knowing as much as he could about a subject, and treated each story with a respect, diligence and a work ethic that few could match.
“Writing was in Tom’s blood,” said Judy Ancel, director of Labor Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. “He couldn’t rest without a place to write. And he wrote so well it looked effortless. You could miss the hours that went into the careful research and honing of his articles. Tom’s strength was long features where he could look at the complexity, provide substance, and give voice to many viewpoints. Fundamentally, he trusted his readers to get it without beating them over the head.
“Tom Bogdon represented so many of the qualities of journalism that we are losing today,” added Ancel. “As we lose them, Tom’s stubbornness in keeping them alive makes me already miss him. He had a passion to cover the lives of ordinary people; he insisted on the details not the sound bites; and he detested the pompous and the corrupt. His beliefs weren’t always convenient for him, but he stuck to them."
Visitation is from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, January 20, at Muehlebach Funeral Home, 6900 Troost, with a funeral mass at 9 a.m. Thursday, January 21, at the Redemptorist Church, 3333 Broadway. Burial will follow at Calvary Cemetery, 6900 Troost.
The family is asking for donations to be made to the University of Kansas Medical Centers Oncology department for the compassionate care they provided Tom. Donate Online.
Mail to endowment. PO. Box 928, Lawrence, KS 66044-0928 or visit online here.