Remembering Lou Panos [Editorial]

We lost a good friend at the newspaper this week. And the public, from casual readers to those steeped in politics, lost a trusted journalist.

Lou Panos, longtime Baltimore area journalist and political editor for this newspaper, died Sept. 8 of complications from heart disease. He was 87.

Lou came to what was then known as Patuxent Publishing Co. in 1988 to lead political coverage in Baltimore County and Annapolis and to write a weekly column. Prior, he had already worked a full career as a reporter for the Associated Press for 20 years, 15 years with the Baltimore Evening Sun, then served as press secretary for Gov. Harry Hughes and as director of public affairs for the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center. But he wasn't looking to slow down as he edged toward retirement.

Immediately, with his experience, professionalism and honorable reputation in the news business, Lou elevated our coverage of government and brought new respect to our papers. Readers sought out the community weeklies specifically to read Lou's stories and columns, in which readers would find the oft-used phrase "Solons on the Severn," as he referred to state lawmakers. His friendly, easy-going manner ensured his accessibility to readers, those he covered and his willingness to mentor young reporters.

As a colleague, Lou was an inspiration and role model; he believed journalism to be a noble profession in its mission of the public's right to know.

As friends, politicians and fellow journalists eulogized Lou earlier this week, words such as "gentleman" and "integrity" have been used often. For Lou, it wasn't just about getting the story. It was about covering the news in a fair, accurate and balanced way. He did this with a graceful, "keep-it-simple" style that during the course of his career earned him awards from every regional journalism association. Last year, the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association admitted him to its hall of fame.

Lou never subscribed to "gotcha" journalism. Instead, he saw himself as a reporter who was privileged to represent those who didn't have the access he had. Even when it came time for the newspaper to endorse candidates for office, Lou was often heard telling those who didn't get the editorial board's support to hang in there because there would always be another election and another candidate to endorse.

As for mourning his death, our guess is that Lou would brush aside all of the fuss and show off his sense of humor by delivering a witty remark. Being in the spotlight was never his desire. For him, it was a life of serving others with his talents.

We were glad to have been part of his journey.

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