Kevin Lally had a front-row seat for the multitude of changes that challenged and altered the newspaper industry during the past three decades. Indeed, as publisher and president of the Brooks Community Newspapers, he implemented many of the computerized advances that those who are still engaged in the media game now take for granted.
Kevin learned the business from his father, the late Harry Lally, who operated the Brooks newspaper group under the aegis of Publisher B.V. Brooks. Starting as a paste-up artist as a teenager in the Westport News office, Kevin progressed through the ranks as an advertising salesman and sales manager, eventually becoming publisher.
He was both creative and entrepreneurial. During his 35-year run at BCN, the group of weeklies and twice-weeklie Westport News, Fairfield Citizen, Norwalk Citizen, Darien News, Greenwich Citizen, New Canaan News gained widespread recognition and readership and earned a host of industry awards.
"Nobody knew the business like Kevin. It was in his blood," said Mimi Burroughs, a long-time BCN employee who was the head paginator when she left the company in 2009. "He was very knowledgeable about printing. If somebody was out sick, he could step in and put out the paper. He did that with the supplements many times."
When I heard that Kevin had died in his Westport home last Friday, at the much-too-young age of 53, I was stunned but, at the same time, not totally surprised. His life had been in a downward spiral for a while. His reign with Brooks had ended. His marriage to Nancy had ended.
I wish I had been a position to help him turn his life around.
I shall forever be indebted to Kevin John Lally. It was he who asked if I would have an interest in becoming editor of a new weekly newspaper the Greenwich Citizen. He broached the subject in July of 2002, when was I wrapping up a three-week freelance project for BCN editing the annual Meet the Merchants supplement.
The company, he said, was planning to launch the 20,000-circulation paper in September, and an editor had yet to be hired. "Why don't you take a ride down to Greenwich tonight and check out the town?" he added.
I did. Or rather Patti my spouse, lover and confidant and I did.
What's not to like about this friendly community? We toured the center of town, checked out the building at 41 W. Putnam Ave., where the Citizen was to be housed, and enjoyed a quick bite at Thataway, a trendy spot located at the base of Greenwich Avenue. "The Avenue," as it's known to locals.
Truth be told, I'd always harbored a dream to own a weekly, even during my two decades with daily newspapers in New York, Waterbury and New Haven. And so I was an easy "sell." Kevin offered me the editor's position just a day or two later, and I began to assemble a team of reporters and editors.
Kevin provided considerable support during the uncertain period leading up to our maiden issue. He wanted things to be right. With emotional assistance from our youthful publisher and creative assistance from Mimi and others, our first issue went to press on Sept. 25. To celebrate the occasion, BCN hosted the Greenwich Chamber of Commerce luncheon that Friday afternoon at the Milbrook Club.
Kevin took great pride in the awards won by his newspapers. In our first year of eligibility for the New England Press Association (NEPA) Better Newspaper contest, he was delighted to learn that Greenwich had captured a General Excellence award and I was among the winners in the Best Columnist category. The two of us, joined by Managing Editor Nicole Rivard and Arts Editor Jennifer Cirillo, celebrated late into that February evening in Boston.
Mr. Lally, may you rest in peace.
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