Paul Hogan, who shepherded Tampa Tribune into modern area, dead at 83

Paul Hogan, former managing editor of The Tampa Tribune, died Monday at 83. A colleague said of Hogan, "If anybody was trying to keep anything out of the paper he would fight to get it in.
Paul Hogan, former managing editor of The Tampa Tribune, died Monday at 83. A colleague said of Hogan, "If anybody was trying to keep anything out of the paper he would fight to get it in.
Published Nov. 15, 2016

TAMPA — Paul Hogan, according to a buddy, was a master at getting friends to buy him a beer.

And he had a lot of friends, from governors and business executives to the copy girl he hired out of college and used to send out for coffee — Sandy Freedman, later known as Mayor Freedman.

The beers were bought after deadline at the Chatterbox on S Howard Avenue where Mr. Hogan held court in a corner, or the Paddock, a dive where politicians, lawyers and other downtown wildlife mingled with reporters across from the old Kennedy Boulevard home of The Tampa Tribune.

The Paddock and Chatterbox were gentrified out of existence years ago, and the Tribune, where Hogan worked 26 years, 13 as managing editor, closed in May.

Now Mr. Hogan — an old-school newsman who championed journalistic crusading, opening government to the people, and defending his reporters against outside pressure — is gone, too.

He died at his home in Smiths Station, Ala., of pulmonary artery hypertension.

Mr. Hogan had been saddened, said his wife Charlene Hogan, by the end of the newspaper he helped shepherd into the modern age of journalism.

"He felt like it was his baby."

In 1987, when he retired from the Tribune, he told a reporter that the closing of the Tribune's afternoon sister paper, the Tampa Times, was "the darkest day I remember" in his career.

"I hate to see a newspaper die," he said.

The Tribune was purchased in May by its rival the Tampa Bay Times.

Mr. Hogan came from a bygone era when newspaper people often didn't have college degrees and worked with copy paper and paste. He bridged the Tribune forward to the era of digital type and reporters with master's degrees who write data-sorting code to find stories.

But he kept his old-school principles, his colleagues said.

"If anybody was trying to keep anything out of the paper he would fight to get it in. If his reporters were under attack, he'd come to their defense," said Joe Guidry, who was the Tribune's last editorial page editor.

"When he walked out of the newsroom the day he retired, people stood up and applauded. You don't see that too often."

Mr. Hogan, 83, was born into a middle-class family in Canton, Ga., son of a school food service director and a textile manufacturer who later ran a school to train aircraft production workers during World War II.

He became an unpaid copy boy at the Marietta Daily Journal as a high school freshman, mainly because he couldn't make the football team, a family bio says.

After high school, he worked briefly at the police department, but then landed his first paying news job, at the Enquirer of Columbus, Ga.. The job probably committed him to journalism, Charlene Hogan said.

He was in sports, but helped cover the clean-up of Phenix City, Ala., a town so corrupted by organized crime that Army Gen. George Patton once threatened to send tanks to destroy it so he could stop its predation on soldiers from Fort Benning, according to a University of Alabama documentary.

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The newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize.

"He was called into work the day we got back from our honeymoon," Charlene Hogan said. "He didn't come home until 6 a.m. the next day. That was my introduction to being married to a newsman."

In 1956, Mr. Hogan moved to the Birmingham News, where one of his first stories was spending a week in jail undercover to report on conditions. He didn't shower the entire time because there was only one towel for the cell block.

"He said, 'I'd rather be in my own dirt.'" Charlene said. "When he got home we put Tide in the bathtub to get him clean."

In 1961 Mr. Hogan moved to the Tribune's Sarasota bureau and then moved up the ranks, becoming managing editor in 1974.

"More than anything else, what Hogan wanted was reporters who could dig up dirt, find the truth, get below the surface," said his long-time city editor, Joe Registrato. "He said, 'Find out who's sleeping with who.' Maybe in less delicate language."

There was plenty to dig up in Tampa.

In 1984, reporters Richard Bockman and Kevin Kalwary caught local judges taking bribes; in 1983, three of the five Hillsborough County commissioners were led out of the county building in handcuffs by FBI agents on bribery charges.

Mr. Hogan "always ran interference from any advertiser or even the publisher trying to influence or intimidate reporters, and he kept the editorial and news departments separate," said Kalwary, now a private investigator.

Protecting journalists was a priority. Once, he even bailed out an editor busted on a marijuana charge, saving him from a weekend in jail without a toothbrush.

In 1975, during a bitter Tampa mayoral race between Bill Poe and colorful populist Joe Kotvas — later one of the three commissioners convicted of bribery — the paper obtained a photo of Kotvas posing naked in a magazine.

That was a hot potato.

"Tampa was a pretty small town back then, and Kotvas had a lot of support in West Tampa," said Joe Henderson, then a Tribune sportswriter, later metro columnist and now a contributor to the Tampa Bay Times. "He said, 'If you print this, I'll sue you.'"

Mr. Hogan put the story in the paper, but put his own byline on it.

"He was acting as a human shield," Henderson said. "If they came after anybody with flaming torches and pitchforks, it was going to be him."

Kotvas narrowly lost the election.

Mr. Hogan refused a personal appeal to kill a story when the late Hugh Smith, a prominent local news anchor and acquaintance, was busted for soliciting an underage prostitute.

Hogan wasn't immune from scrutiny. When a reporter came into the office with a police report on a car wreck involving the managing editor, he insisted it run on the metro front, said long-time friend Paul Catoe.

Hogan gradually delegated daily running of the paper to Registrato and assistant managing editor Matt Taylor and got "engaged in the community," said former Gov. Bob Martinez. He focused mostly on good-government causes — Leadership Tampa, Leadership Florida, and particularly, open government.

Under Hogan, the Tribune developed a reputation for suing to force secretive bureaucrats to release public records and hold open meetings. He lobbied the Legislature for stronger laws as a two-time president of the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors and was inducted into the Florida Freedom of Information Hall of Fame in 1997.

Carl Crothers, city hall reporter and later editor, was involved in a precedent-setting lawsuit in 1982 when the city refused to hand over personnel files of three police officers involved in the shooting death of a suspect.

"To me his legacy was open records and open meetings," Crothers said.

Despite his crusades and battles, Mr. Hogan held onto a raft of friends in Tampa. He enjoyed having a drink, many of them said — usually but not always after the end of the workday — and used time in bars to cement relations.

"From time to time I may have complained" about something in the paper, said Martinez, who became mayor and then governor during Hogan's tenure. "He'd say, 'Let's go to the Turf and have a drink, and talk about something else.' How could you get mad at him?"

At a roast in the early 1980s, his friends presented him with the front door to the Chatterbox, signed by the regulars.

Hogan left the Tribune in what Registrato called "the purge," when the paper's former corporate owner, Media General, brought in a new executive editor, Doyle Harvill.

After leaving, Mr. Hogan started a public relations firm in Tampa, but retired in 1998 to the area in Alabama where he grew up, as he had long told friends he would.

Last spring, as his heart problems worsened and doctors told him he wouldn't live past Thanksgiving.

He told a few friends, including Al Hutchison, another former Tribune editor known for devotion to his Scottish ancestry.

"Hogan sent me an email," said Hutchison. "He said, 'Do you Scots know how to postpone that holiday?"

Contact William March at