CT Journalism Hall of Fame: Chuck Dixon
Chuck Dixon never met an awkward phrase he didn’t hate.
Dixon ran the state news desk at the Waterbury Republican-American, where he taught a generation of reporters how to write crisply and succinctly.
Dixon demanded sharp thinking and tight writing. He could be a fearsomely tough critic. But the loyalty that he inspired in his staff lives on long after his retirement and years after his death.
Dixon’s specialty was always crime news. After serving in the Navy during the Korean War, he joined the Arizona Republic in 1954 as a cub reporter.
Son, he was assigned to the police and courts beats.
In his first year on the job, he was dispatched to the Arizona State Prison to witness – and cover – the execution of a confessed murderer.
He left journalism in 1958 for public relations in the insurance industry. But he returned to newspapers in 1970, joining the Waterbury Republican as an assistant state editor.
Dixon worked there for more than 20 years as an editor, yet never completely stopped being a reporter. In 1972, he covered the murder of a Torrington High School girl, winning awards from state and regional news organizations. He spent a week in New London in 1988 covering the conclusion of the spectacular “Woodchipper” murder trial. When the judge abruptly declared a mistrial late on a Friday night, Dixon filed a rich, insightful story in time for Page 1 …. dictating much of it on deadline when his old TRS-80 gave out.
After retiring in 1991 as assistant managing editor, Dixon wrote a Sunday column that was anything but ordinary.
He did ride-alongs with a driving instructor and a trash collector … subbed as a bookstore security guard … tried hitch-hiking along Route 254 to see who would offer him a ride …. and even posed as a deadbeat — but hungry — customer at Torrington restaurants to find out whether he’d get stuck washing dishes.
Dixon died four years ago at 76. His memorial service brought together dozens of former colleagues who traveled from around the country to attend.
Mike Balchunas, one of Dixon’s deputy editors in the 1980s, describes him this way:
“I think Chuck was the best journalism ‘teacher’ I’ve ever seen, even though that wasn’t in his job description. He was a consummate storyteller with the highest ethical standards … a strong sense of fairness … and a tremendous knack for knowing what elements belonged in a story and what to leave out.”