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Mark Murphy, 69; Former Metro Editor of L.A. Times

May 08, 2003|From a Times Staff Writer

Mark Murphy, a former editor of the Hartford Courant who had an influential career at the Los Angeles Times, has died. He was 69.

Murphy, who served as metro editor of the Los Angeles Times through much of the 1970s, died Tuesday at his home in Fort Worth, Texas, after a long battle against cancer.

A gregarious, often jovial, presence in the newsroom, Murphy started his 40-year career in journalism as a copy editor at the Salt Lake City Tribune in 1957.

His somewhat circuitous journey included stints as editor of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal in Spartanburg, S.C., and managing editor of the news department at KCBS-TV Channel 2 in Los Angeles. Most recently, he worked in a variety of editing capacities at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Born in Honolulu, Murphy grew up in Oregon and attended Willamette University in Salem before joining the Army for two years in the mid-1950s. After his discharge, he returned to college, this time at Brigham Young University, graduating in 1958.

While in Salt Lake City, he worked at the Tribune as a copy editor and reporter before moving back to Oregon for editing positions, first at a small paper in Pendleton and then at the Portland Oregonian.

He came to the Los Angeles Times as an assistant news editor in 1965. He was named an assistant metropolitan editor in 1967. After serving as city editor of the Orange County edition in 1970 and 1971, he was named metropolitan editor of The Times when William F. Thomas was elevated from that position to the post of editor of The Times.

As metro editor, Murphy assumed overall responsibility for news coverage of the Los Angeles metropolitan area and Southern California and for half a dozen suburban sections. He also oversaw the photography department and the San Francisco and Sacramento bureaus.

Through much of the 1970s, he oversaw The Times' increased focus on coverage in California. "Mark's greatest strengths were his imagination and his willingness to pursue the unusual stories," Thomas recalled Wednesday.

In 1981, Murphy was named vice president and editor of the Hartford Courant in Hartford, Conn., which also was owned by Times Mirror. Both papers are now owned by Tribune Co., which is based in Chicago.

From Hartford, Murphy returned to Southern California to try his hand at television journalism at Channel 2.

Survivors include his wife, Marilyn; their son Ryan K. Murphy; and four children from a previous marriage: son Rick of San Diego; and daughters Pam Waxman of Santa Rosa, Calif., Kelly Cooper of Ventura and Cindy Murphy of Lake Forest. He is also survived by three grandchildren.

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