By
Christine Favocci
|
October 14, 2022
|
10:40 pm

NPR Midwest Bureau Chief dead at 67 from throat cancer

In the cutthroat world of media, it's easy to forget that there are some good guys. By all accounts, Ken Barcus was one of them.

Barcus, a beloved mentor and NPR Midwest Bureau Chief, has died due to complications of throat cancer, NPR reported. He was just 67.

With over 30 years at the network under his belt, Barcus left an unforgettable legacy. Whether it was cultivating important stories or encouraging the next generation of journalists, Barcus was important to the midwest region.

"Ken was a passionate advocate for coverage of the Midwest," Vickie Walton-James, who was Barcus's boss for 14 years as the managing editor for NPR, said. "He never stopped pushing for stories that illuminated life away from the coasts."

"Even after decades in his job, he wanted to make sure no one ever thought of the region as 'flyover country,'" Walton James added. Barcus had a love for the midwest as a homegrown Cleveland, Ohio man and became an apologist for his home state.

"The Cuyahoga River, which caught on fire as you all know in the '60s or '70s — 'the river that burns' was the big joke for Cleveland — is a river that I now take my children out on kayaking, and we see eagles every time we go out," he said during a 2002 call-in segment. "It's just different than the perception, different than the stereotype, and different than that old New Yorker cartoon of a flyover Midwest area."

Barcus was also remembered as being "gruff" but nurturing to young talent. "He said he wanted my story to sing," NPR correspondent Tovia Smith remembered.

"And when I gave him what I wrote, he just went silent for a second. And then he blurts out at me, 'I was asking for a symphony. This is like elevator music!'" Smith recalled. "That stung."

A man's legacy is more than his work. However, some like Barcus are able to be great at all facets of life -- even navigating the media jungle.

Written By:
Christine Favocci

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