Constance Ellen (Connie) Lawn ONZM: 14 May 1944-2 April 2018.

AuthorMcKinnon, Malcolm
PositionOBITUARY - Obituary

Independent reporter Connie Lawn died at her home in Falls Church, Virginia on 2 April 2018.

At the time of her death Connie was the longest serving member of the White House press corps. She arrived in Washington in 1967, after graduating from Simmons College in Boston. One of her first professional assignments was as a reporter on the Bobby Kennedy presidential campaign. She had one of the last interviews with Kennedy, and was close by when he was shot in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in June 1968.

In that turbulent year Connie also covered the riots following the earlier death of Martin Luther King Jr, the violence that broke out at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, and the aftermath of Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia which put an end to the Prague Spring.

Back in Washington DC, Connie became a freelance reporter covering the White House, Capitol Hill and the State Department for radio stations across the United States. Connies keen interest in international affairs also secured her overseas clients, including the English language service of Israeli Radio in 1973 and the NZBC (later Radio New Zealand) in 1977.

New Zealand quickly became a favourite, as did Connie with her New Zealand listeners. She visited the country in 1982 and again a few years later, achieving a special kind of fame when a champion race horse was named after her. She also had an education, learning (too late as it were) that 'freezing works' was a New Zealand euphemism for slaughterhouse. Reporting on Israel's war in Lebanon in 1982, Connie escaped a kidnapping by assaulting her abductor with an Air New Zealand flight bag--'don't leave home without' was clearly the moral of that story.

Connie's close relationship with her New Zealand listeners was captured in her autobiographical memoir Voice from America, published in New Zealand in 1994 and still very readable a quarter century on. An updated version was published in the United States in 2010 as You wake me in the morning --many of Connie's New Zealand listeners would have started their day hearing her on Radio New Zealand's Morning Report, as listeners in other countries would first hear her on their own morning radio shows. In the age of #metoo the memoir has added topicality in its recounting of the challenges faced by a woman reporter in the then overwhelmingly male-dominated worlds of the media and...

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