Wealthy Connell, longtime Instances investigative reporter and editor, dies at 71

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Wealthy Connell, an award-winning investigative reporter and city-county bureau chief for The Instances whose deep data of L.A. authorities helped form a era of younger reporters, died Friday at 71.

The suspected reason behind loss of life was a coronary heart assault, mentioned Ian Connell, his son.

Connell’s three many years at The Instances included engaged on the paper’s investigative group the place he chronicled the worldwide rise of Mara Salvatrucha, the gang referred to as MS-13, uncovered a federal corruption investigation of Los Angeles Metropolis Councilman Richard Alatorre and uncovered flaws within the 911 emergency response system.

His byline additionally appeared on a few of the largest tales of the Nineteen Nineties: the beating of Rodney King, the 1992 L.A. riots, O.J. Simpson’s trial and the Northridge earthquake.

Connell, referred to as a flexible expertise, took on many roles within the newsroom. He rewrote breaking tales for the entrance web page, mentored reporters and deliberate multimedia tales over the course of his profession.

“No endeavor was too huge or difficult for Wealthy,” mentioned Joel Sappell, a former Instances editor and reporter. “And nothing gave the impression to be out of his consolation zone.”

Connell was born in 1951 in Hermosa Seaside. After graduating from Cal State Lengthy Seaside with a level in journalism, he was employed by the South Bay newspaper the Each day Breeze.

His drive for perfection was on show early in his profession: As an assistant metropolis editor on the Each day Breeze, he as soon as issued a memo to reporters that was entitled: “Connell’s 5 C’s.” This listing inspired reporters to be clear, concise and extra.

He joined The Instances in 1982 as an training and native authorities reporter. Later, as an investigative reporter, he dug into tales about California’s vitality market, the 9/11 assaults, the state’s deliberate high-speed rail, L.A. Metropolis Corridor corruption and the Metropolis of Trade’s governance.

Instances reporter Robert Lopez, who labored with Connell on many investigative items, recalled Connell’s resourcefulness after they traveled to El Salvador round 2005 to research MS-13.

The pair had been in a lodge bar the evening earlier than a deliberate go to to a jail to interview gang members when Connell had the thought of utilizing a video recorder for his or her story.

Connell went to the foyer of the lodge, carrying a wad of payments. The concierge returned quarter-hour later with a digital camera for lease. Connell ended up taking pictures hours of video for the story, Lopez mentioned, footage that was extra highly effective than something that they might write.

“This was early on and nobody was taking pictures video,” Lopez mentioned. “He was considering, how can we inform this story?”

Connell received awards for his investigative, multimedia and have work, together with two Investigative Reporters & Editors medals. He was additionally a part of a group that received a 1997 Goldsmith Prize for investigative reporting for a sequence that scrutinized giant contributions to the Democratic Celebration by influential Asian donors.

Tall and square-shouldered, Connell may very well be an imposing determine when demanding data.

Sappell, the previous Instances staffer, mentioned that Connell “may penetrate bureaucracies higher than any reporter I ever labored with. He merely couldn’t be brushed apart or intimidated. He obtained to the underside of no matter he pursued. He was actually a marvel, a present to readers and to his editors.”

In 2011, Connell moved to the Metro modifying workers as chief of The Instances’ Metropolis-County bureau. A former native authorities reporter, Connell favored to speak by tales with reporters and was excited after they introduced him uncommon pitches.

Instances reporter Kate Linthicum, who previously coated Metropolis Corridor and now’s a correspondent in The Instances’ Mexico Metropolis bureau, recalled Connell’s assistance on a narrative about issues with the town’s 911 system.

“He was so supportive, teaching me on learn how to conduct troublesome interviews and learn how to stand my floor when an official questioned our reporting,” Linthicum mentioned.

Connell’s reporters may additionally face lengthy nights and exacting edits as Connell favored to tinker with their copy till it was excellent.

“He wished it to be the perfect it may very well be,” former Instances reporter Catherine Saillant mentioned. “He wished it to be L.A. Instances high quality. He had excessive requirements.”

If Connell may very well be a troublesome editor, he additionally had a playful aspect. In what reporters would later name the “St. Paddy’s Day Bloodbath,” Connell — then on the Each day Breeze — as soon as took the newsroom out for lunch at Hennessey’s Tavern, an Irish pub in Redondo Seaside, on St. Patrick’s Day.

One beer led to a different and the group ended up consuming for a number of hours. The reporters turned to Connell for recommendation on whether or not they need to return to the newsroom. “Do as I might do,” Connell advised them — a line that might be repeated by his colleagues for years.

Again on the near-empty workplace, the Breeze’s metropolis editor Frank Suraci fearful he wouldn’t have the ability to get out the subsequent day’s paper. He despatched an assistant metropolis editor to the bar to retrieve the reporters, however that editor as an alternative began consuming too. “Nobody got here again,” mentioned Suraci, who despatched out a “scathing” be aware to the workers the subsequent day.

Connell married Millie Hernandez in 1977 and the couple settled in Lakewood, the place they lived for the final 37 years. He was dedicated to his two younger grandchildren.

He’d seize an empty paper towel roll and faux it was a telescope, or make up elaborate tales for his grandchildren. Connell had a “magnetic pull” with youngsters; he’d get down on their degree and “be extraordinarily current in no matter they had been doing,” mentioned his son.

Connell was good at leaving his work behind when he obtained house, his son mentioned, and being together with his household. “You wouldn’t know there was loads of craziness” in Connell’s job, his son mentioned.

Connell left The Instances in 2015, one in every of many longtime staffers who took buyouts that 12 months underneath then-owner Tribune Publishing.

Lately, Connell pursued his hobbies, reminiscent of golf and boating, and listening to bluegrass music, his son mentioned.

Connell is survived by his spouse, son, daughter Kara and two grandchildren.

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