TCU alumnus and journalism school graduate Ken Bunting was remembered Monday as a mentor, leader and strong manager who urged reporters to remember work-life balance.
Mr. Bunting, 65, died Sunday in Columbia, Mo. He graduated from TCU in 1970 with a degree in journalism and history. He then went on to have a storied career as an executive at newspapers across the country, but he never forgot his Horned Frog roots.
He was a longtime supporter of the university and the School of Journalism.
“Ken was a professional colleague, a friend and a great supporter of TCU Journalism,” said John Lumpkin, director of the School of Journalism. “He was also an example for us all of genuine sensitivity and integrity.”
Tommy Thomason, director of the Texas Center for Community Journalism, called Mr. Bunting a “walking national ambassador” for TCU who was “always there to support the school.”
Mr. Bunting’s newspaper career included stops at the Los Angeles Times, the San Antonio Express-News, the Cincinnati Post, the Sacramento Bee and the Corpus Christi-Caller-Times.
An old school reporter
He also spent seven years at the Star-Telegram where he was well-liked and highly regarded for piecing together a strong corps of reporters.
One of those reporters, Jack Douglas Jr., remembered Mr. Bunting as an “old school reporter” who loved his job.
“It was in the day when you spent a lot of the day pounding the pavement, making phone calls,” said Douglas, now an investigative producer for CBS 11. “He had great knowledge and great insight. He had a passion for journalism – for storytelling.”
Douglas said Mr. Bunting had an easy-going personality that helped him succeed as a newsroom manager and executive.
Star-Telegram columnist Bob Ray Sanders said Mr. Bunting was respected and loved in the newsroom. Sanders said Mr. Bunting was a member of the Dallas Association of Black Communicators where he took the time to mentor young black journalists.
In 1993, Mr. Bunting was passed over for the executive editor job at the Star-Telegram. But a short time later he was tapped to lead the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, where he worked for 17 years.
During his tenure the staff won more national and regional awards — including two Pulitzers — than at any time in the newspaper’s history.
Mr. Bunting left the newspaper in 2009, when the P.I. ceased print production and moved all publication online.
A year later, he was named executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, a nonpartisan coalition of open-government groups and advocates. He served in that role at the Columbia, Mo.-based organization until earlier this year.
Randy Smith, a journalism professor at the nearby University of Missouri, and the family’s spokesperson said Mr. Bunting had a knack for creating atmospheres where reporters could thrive.
“He made the atmosphere that helped all those great people do all that great work,” Smith said. “And that’s no small feat.”
In April, Smith’s mother died – and Mr. Bunting was there to support his friend and colleague.
“My mother’s funeral was in Kansas City, and a lot of family and friends from Kansas City were there,” Smith said.
“About 10 minutes before the service Ken comes through the door with Juli. I said, ‘you guys drove all the way down?’”
Mr. Bunting replied, “Well, I didn’t want you to be alone. I want you to know how much your colleagues and friends support you.”
“That was Ken,” Smith said.
Smith recalled a dinner he and Mr. Bunting attended this week in which Mr. Bunting proudly wore a purple TCU shirt.
Mr. Bunting was one of the inaugural inductees into the School of Journalism’s Hall of Excellence in 2010, and has served on the Bob Schieffer College of Communications Board of Visitors.
He is survived by his wife, Juli, and son, Maxwell.
Mr. Bunting’s family has requested that donations in Ken Bunting’s memory be made to the TCU School of Journalism Scholarship Fund. Donations should be sent to the attention of John Lumpkin, Director, TCU School of Journalism, TCU Box 298060, Fort Worth TX 76129.