Farewell, John Henning

By Chris Daly

Today comes news of the death of one of the greats in Boston television news: John Henning.

In a medium that often cares more about the television than about the news, Henning stood out as a dead-serious reporter. He cared about facts and information, not about his hair or the lighting.

Henning also stood out among the Boston press corps for another reason (and not just his towering physique): He was a true gentleman. By this I mean that he was consistently considerate of other people.

I can vouch for this because I was part of a cohort of Boston journalists who all overlapped in being assigned to cover the Statehouse during the mid and late 1980s — i.e., the Dukakis years. When I arrived to cover state politics for the AP sometime in 1983 or ’84, one of the first people I met was John Henning. I was startled because I already “knew” him from seeing him regularly on the local TV news. I could not believe that he would give the time of day to “the new guy” for the AP. And yet, he went out of his way to greet me, swap information, invite me to join him in interviewing big-shots, allowing me to tag along for food or drink.

John was also very generous in another way (one that really matters in journalism): He was always willing to share his vast storehouse of Massachusetts political history to explain to a newbie what was really going on, why somebody hated somebody else from his same party, where the bodies were buried. He was a key figure in the transmission of political lore that takes place used to take place in Statehouse press galleries across the country when they were fully staffed. Anybody looking for a spot-on, often hilarious primer on Massachusetts political history will now have to look harder.

I learned a lot from John Henning, and I fear that I never really got to thank him.

So, John, let me say: Thanks a lot, to a real gentleman.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Farewell, John Henning

  1. Larry

    Unlike you, Chris, I never got to take the second step with John Henning, of getting to know him “up close and personal.” But like a million others, I felt like I knew him from seeing him so often on television, and I’m not in the least surprised to hear he was a generous gentleman — ’cause that’s totally how he came across over the air.
    And wicked smart, too.

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