CT Journalism Hall of Fame: Edward Frede
Danbury News-times writer Robert Miller said in an article about Ed Frede’s death, that Ed thought he’d escape Danbury, Connecticut when he was young. He came to embrace his hometown, and Danbury embraced him. But it was not just Danbury that felt Ed’s influence. All of Connecticut was served by his dedication to the pursuit of truth and to Freedom of Information.
Ed Frede was born in 1935. He graduated from Danbury High School in 1952 and the University of Connecticut in 1956. He served in the U.S. Navy for four years, rising to the rank of commander and working as an air intelligence officer aboard the USS Forrestal. Afterward, he went to work at The Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Virginia, where he was a reporter for three years.
He and his wife Mary Ann met there, married, and moved to California, where Frede worked at two newspapers. Stephen Collins, longtime editor of The News-Times, had always told Frede if he wanted a job in his hometown to call. In 1969, he did. He started his career at the Danbury News-Times that year as a copy editor. He became editor in 1980 and executive editor in 1995.
But those are merely facts and dates.
They don’t communicate the passion Ed had for journalism. Here are a few comments from those who knew Ed well:
Former Danbury mayor, James Dyer, said, “I thought he was the classic, old-time newsman. He had ink in his veins.”
Mitchell Pearlman, the former director of the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission, said, “Ed didn’t look at putting out a newspaper as a job. For him, it was a vocation.”
Former News-Times publisher, Wayne J. Shepard said, “Certainly all editors of this newspaper have cared about the quality of our writing, our news coverage and our image in the community. But Ed, more than any of us, took the blue-collar approach to wearing our logo across his forehead…He continually sought out townspeople to chat about their views – good or bad – of our daily news content. Everyday, he wanted to make our reporters’ writing better.”
Robin Glassman, whom Ed hired as a writing coach at the paper and who was inducted into the Hall of Fame at its inception, said, “He was gentle, affable, devoted to the News-Times and always working to improve it. Especially the writing and reporting. He was very serious about this, but he could be funny too. He always enjoyed a good joke.”
His wife, Mary Ann said of Ed’s hectic schedule, “I knew if he could be home he would be. But I gave up on him being home on time.”
There was “ink in his blood.”
Ed served as the secretary/treasurer of both the Connecticut Council on the FOI and the Connecticut Foundation for Open Government. He received the E. Bartlett Barnes Award from the FOI Commission for his lifetime of work promoting open government.
He was always willing to talk with journalism classes about the news business and share his passion for journalism. That passion was infectious. His influence went beyond words on paper, but into the hearts and minds of young journalists who saw him as a role model for how to do community journalism right.
There was that day when Ed’s phone rang at the paper. It was a prisoner at the Danbury Federal Correctional Institution who was holding a knife to a hostage’s throat and wanted to talk to Ed. Ed rushed out to the prison with a tape recorder. He listened to the man’s story, persuaded him to put down the knife, then hurried back to the paper. The News-Times ran Ed’s story and also a complete transcript of the man’s complaints.
There was “ink in his blood.”