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Leader in N.H. media, history John Milne dies

  • Longtime journalist John Milne was editor for a 405-page book on Concord. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 9/6/2019 6:58:34 PM
Modified: 9/6/2019 6:58:21 PM

Longtime journalist John Milne, whose 40-year career included stints as manager of United Press International’s Concord bureau and editor of the weekly New Hampshire Times, died Thursday at Maine Medical Center in Portland.

After graduating from Iowa’s Grinnell College in 1967, Milne joined UPI and worked at bureaus in Raleigh, N.C., Boston and Washington, D.C. His leadership of the Concord bureau began in 1971.

Milne also spent four years as an editor for the Miami Herald in the late 1970s and early 1980s before returning to Concord in 1983 to take the reins of the New Hampshire Times. A year later he joined the Boston Globe to cover politics.

One of Milne’s biggest moments on the national political beat came years earlier, in February 1972. He had a front-row seat to presidential candidate Edmund Muskie’s famous “crying” speech in front of the Manchester Union Leader building, during which the Maine senator stood on a flatbed truck in a snowstorm and lambasted the paper’s publisher, William Loeb, for criticizing the behavior of his wife, Jane. Some said Muskie cried during the speech, while the candidate maintained the “tears” were melting snowflakes. Either way, the political harm was done. After Muskie died in 1996, Milne wrote about the incident on the Arlington National Cemetery website.

“I was right at Muskie’s shoes, so at the time he sort of chokes up, I’m doing the old wire service thing of watching carefully for tears because I know it’s important for us to say, ‘Did he cry or didn’t he?’” Milne wrote. “And I don’t think he did.”

Photojournalist Bob LaPree of Hopkinton, who worked with Milne at the New Hampshire Times, said he was “a quiet observer of the political scene who could succinctly analyze the underlying issues.”

“Just recently,” LaPree said, “we were talking about the possibility of Trump being re-elected if the disaffected liberal voters once again stayed away or voted for a third-party candidate.”

Milne also served as editor for Crosscurrents of Change: Concord, N.H. in the 20th Century, a 405-page book by local writers that was published by the Concord Historical Society in 2010.

Former WKXL broadcaster Dick Osbourne helped lead the book project and worked closely with Milne. He said he had just talked with Milne about getting together this week.

“Collaborating with John was one of the highlights of my media career in Concord,” Osbourne said. “He was an exacting editor of the book, and it was a pleasure to take direction from him. Concord as a community owes a debt of gratitude for his hard work and perseverance on the book.”

“In every way, John was a dedicated journalist and a great friend,” he said.

Jim Milliken, president of the Concord Historical Society, says Milne will be missed for his Concord institutional knowledge.

“He has been a good friend and contributor to the work of the Concord Historical Society for many years. John always had a special reporter’s insight into whatever was being considered for publication. His personal knowledge was invaluable. ... I enjoyed our many conversations and was looking forward to our next project together,” Milliken said. 

New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who knew Milne for many years and counted him as friend, summed him up this way: “John was a gentleman’s gentleman. He was hopeful rather than cynical, what John F. Kennedy liked to style himself: ‘a realist without illusio ns.’ Nevertheless, he knew the mud under our feet as only a newspaper man can.

“In the fall of 1999 I heard him give a prescient and unforgettable lecture at St. Anselm College about how computers and the internet would change our society and the way campaigns would be covered and conducted in the future. Boy, was he ever right!”

Milne is survived by his wife, Lisa, two adult children and four grandchildren. A memorial service is planned for October.

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