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Katherine Fanning; Influential Editor

Obituaries

October 21, 2000|NORA ZAMICHOW | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Katherine W. Fanning, a daring journalist who piloted the Anchorage Daily News to a Pulitzer Prize and later served as editor of the Christian Science Monitor, has died of colon cancer, her husband, Amos Mathews, said Friday. She was 73.

In newspaper circles, Fanning was known for her independence, her willingness to take risks and her adherence to principles.

In 1988, after five years as editor of the Monitor, she resigned following a dispute over the paper's budget cuts and direction, which she regarded as a threat to its editorial independence. Fanning, a team builder, did not resign alone--two other top editors also quit the Boston-based paper, a venture of the church.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday October 22, 2000 Home Edition Metro Part B Page 5 Metro Desk 1 inches; 24 words Type of Material: Correction
Fanning death--In Saturday's Times, the obituary of newspaper editor Katherine Fanning, who died Thursday night, neglected to state that she died at her home in Boston.

"She was a pioneering force in American journalism--the first woman to run a national paper," said the current Monitor editor, David Cook. Fanning, who died Thursday, was the only child of a Joliet, Ill., banker. She graduated from Smith College in 1949 and married Marshall Field IV, whose family ran the Chicago department store bearing the family name. Local society columnists called her "the Grace Kelly of Chicago."

While Field worked as editor of his father's paper, the Chicago Sun Times, his spouse raised their children, volunteering at various charities.

It wasn't enough for her. In 1963, the couple divorced. She would later say she longed for a sense of independence and accomplishment, abhorring "the isolation of the cloistered society matron,"

She loaded her three children into a station wagon and set out for Alaska in 1965. She got a job as a $2-an-hour librarian at the Anchorage Daily News, an innocuous eight-page tabloid that played second fiddle to the Anchorage Times.

One year later, she married Larry Fanning, who had been editor of the Chicago Sun Times. He arrived in Alaska planning to help her sell her house. Instead, he became smitten with the rugged land and, in 1967, despite apprehensions of colleagues, the couple purchased the Anchorage Daily News. Fanning did not begin a professional career in journalism until she was nearly 40.

In 1971, Larry Fanning died at his desk of a heart attack. By then, he had prompted more aggressive journalism and the paper earned its share of foes by pushing unpopular causes, such as gun control, and by raising questions about the Alaska pipeline. Kay Fanning--who served as editor and publisher from 1971 to 1983--continued the quest. In 1983, the year she married Mathews, Fanning decided to leave Alaska for what she viewed as yet another bold adventure: editor of the Monitor. At the Monitor, Fanning was credited with enlivening coverage. She also became the first woman president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

Besides Mathews, she is survived by three children: Ted Field, co-founder and chairman of Interscope Communications, a diversified media production company in Los Angeles; Kathy Stephen of Washington, D.C.; and Barbara Field of Boston. She also leaves eight grandchildren.

After a private graveside service Tuesday morning, a memorial service will be held Tuesday afternoon at the First and Second Unitarian Church in Boston.

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