Remembering Randy Brown

The+late+Randy+Brown+worked+for+the+Wichita+Eagle+for+21+years+while+also+teaching+at+WSU.+He+passed+away+last+Wednesday+at+the+age+of+73.

The late Randy Brown worked for the Wichita Eagle for 21 years while also teaching at WSU. He passed away last Wednesday at the age of 73.

Editor-in-Chief

When Jen Bookhout first came to Wichita State’s Elliott School of Communication in the spring of 2012, she was enrolled in Randy Brown’s Writing for the Mass Audience class.

That is where she started to bond with Brown, a man many have called incredible.

“He was so funny, and he knew so much, because he had so much experience behind him,” Bookhout said. “But, he didn’t beat you over the head with it. He was the kind of person who commanded respect because of who he was, and because of the way he treated people.”

Brown, a retired ESC professor and career journalist, died Wednesday after a long illness. He was 73. His funeral service was Monday.

Brown is survived by his wife, Linda, and children Chris, Chad and Keisha.

Lifelong career

Brown’s career spanned several decades and included journalism and teaching. He spent 21 years at the Wichita Eagle. His roles there included five years as editorial page editor and six years as executive sports editor.

In addition, Brown worked for KAKE-TV in the 1980s. He worked as a senior reporter, managing editor and as the Live at Five anchor. It was at KAKE where he met his longtime colleague, anchor/reporter Larry Hatteberg.

“Randy was a great journalist,” Hatteberg said. “He was one of those people who really cared, not only about journalism, but also the people that life affects.”

Hatteberg said Brown was a great writer whose columns in the Eagle could teach any young journalist how to write short sentences.

To Hatteberg, Brown was not only a friend, but a mentor.

“If I needed to hash out a journalist issue with him, or we came to a crisis mode, I would go to Randy and say, ‘Need to talk. What’s your view of this?’” Hatteberg said. “And he was great in those situations. He always had a great point-of-view, sometimes an alternative point-of-view, that you hadn’t thought of. And that was wonderful.”

Open Government

Brown was a huge proponent of open government. He was heavily involved in the Sunshine Coalition during the later years of his life. The group works to promote open government.

“There are so many roadblocks now for reporters getting information from the government, from the city level, to the county level, to the state level, there’s just a plethora of roadblocks,” Hatteberg said.

And Brown did not like those roadblocks. So, he advocated for making government more open, to get roadblocks out of the way for journalists.

“He was pretty effective at it,” Hatteberg said.

Mentor

For several decades, Brown also taught courses at WSU. He taught writing and editing courses and served as advisor for The Sunflower for three years.

Communication instructor Eric Wilson had Brown as Sunflower adviser, teacher and as a colleague later when Wilson came to teach at the ESC in 2009.

“He was very easy to like and easy to work with,” Wilson said. “He had high expectations, but he was very easy to get along with. I thought he was a very good teacher.”

Brown challenged Bookhout in the two classes she had with him.

“He believed in me, even when I didn’t,” she said.

In one instance, Bookhout brought a draft of a story she was working on to Brown. She pointed out some parts of the story she thought were problematic, and Brown said to her, “Jen, what do you want from me? It’s good.” That reassured Bookhout about her abilities.

“That kind of inspired me to push aside all of my doubt and believe it was good without constantly looking at things that were wrong with it,” Bookhout said.

Humor

Brown was also known for his sense of humor. He had a dry sense of humor and never took himself too seriously, Wilson said.

“He could always use his humor and wit to disarm situations,” he said.

That humor was also found in the workplace, including with Hatteberg at KAKE.

They usually greeted each other by calling one another names.

“I would see him, and he would say, ‘Hatteberg, you ignorant, pathetic piece of protoplasm.’ And I would say something like, ‘Brown, you worthless toad,’” Hatteberg said. “He had a wicked sense of humor.”

Legacy

Brown left a lot to give to journalism and to students, Hatteberg said.

“I’m really disappointed that young people getting into journalism don’t have the benefits of his talent,” he said. “Because they could learn so much. He spent a lot of time teaching, and he really got into it.”

Hatteberg lectured for some of Brown’s classes and could see that Brown had a true relationship with his students.

“He had a gift for journalism, a gift for teaching, and he used both very well,” Hatteberg said.

Bookhout said Brown believed in his students and their abilities to go out and get done what was required, and do so well. She will miss that about him and all of his other qualities.

“He will be very missed,” she said. “He left a good legacy behind him.”