Richard M. Basoco, who rose from being a Baltimore Sun reporter and editor to become senior vice president of the old A.S. Abell Co., publishers of the Baltimore Sunpapers, and later became chief operating officer and executive editor for two decades at Baltimore magazine, died Friday, April 3, of respiratory failure at his Mount Washington home. He was 81.
“Dick and I go way back to when we first joined the paper, he came a year or so after I did,” Fred Hill, a former Baltimore Sun reporter and foreign correspondent, who later became an Evening Sun editorial writer, wrote in an email.
“He was the archetypal newspaperman. He was dedicated to getting to the bottom of any issue, and providing a full, factual and interesting account of the real story,” wrote Mr. Hill, a resident of Arrowsic, Maine. “We shared a mutual interest in the engagement in reporting and writing, literature, the Colts, swapping tall tales and anecdotes late into the night over a couple of drinks.”
Mr. Hill added: "We didn’t see much of each other after I went to work in Washington and he he left The Sun to run Baltimore magazine ---where I know his dedication to the product was paramount."
Jane Marion, a senior editor at Baltimore magazine said in a telephone interview that Mr. Basoco was a “unique individual with a strong personality who had lots of friends.”
“He loved to argue and debate and had so much to teach,” said Ms. Marion, a Pikesville resident. “He wanted good work and that came from the way he pushed us. When you entered his office you had better be prepared and ready for debate. He was a boss I loved personally and professionally."
Ann T. Gallant, who had been director of marketing and communications at The Sun, was both a colleague and close friend of Mr. Basoco’s.
“Dick Basoco started his newspaper career as a journalist and was able to apply that experience to a noteworthy career in publishing,” Ms. Gallant wrote in an email,. “He combined his background as a reporter with knowledge of production, his experience in human resources, sales and marketing with his keen intelligence to guide the Baltimore Sun newspapers and other publications.”
“Journalism ran in Dick’s blood,” Amy Elias, founder and CEO of Profiles Inc., and a longtime friend, wrote in an email. “He understood and respected how important newspapers and magazines were to the fabric of a community, and he was singularly focused on keeping them relevant.”
Richard Miguel Basoco, son of Dr. Miguel Antonio Basoco, chairman of the University of Nebraska mathematics and astronomy departments, and his wife, Doris Basoco, a homemaker, was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Mr. Basoco was a 1956 graduate of Lincoln High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1960 from the University of Nebraska. He served as a naval lieutenant in Washington in the Office of Naval Operations Naval History Division from 1960 until being discharged in 1965.
He began his newspaper career in 1966 when he joined the staff of The Sun as a reporter on the maritime desk working for Helen Delich Bentley, maritime editor, and succeeded her as editor in 1969 when she was named chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commission by President Richard M. Nixon. He subsequently served as assistant sports editor until being appointed training and development manager in 1975.
Before moving into management, Mr. Basoco had been chair of the Sunpapers unit of the Newspaper Guild, the union that represents editorial, advertising and other workers at the paper.
In addition to training and development manager, Mr. Basoco held positions that included manager of employee relations and director of human services. In 1983, Mr. Basoco was named senior vice president of the A.S. Abell Co. where he oversaw administration. A year later, he was appointed general manager.
As general manager, he managed the advertising, circulation and production operations at the newspapers. He also oversaw such support functions as data processing, marketing, industrial relations, research, human resources and general services for The Sun and The Evening Sun.
“Dick Basoco and I had many good moments together when we both worked at The Baltimore Sun in other jobs. Sometimes issues would arise as did our sometimes different opinions. But even these were often good moments,” said Ernest F. Imhoff, a retired editor at The Sunpapers and a Mount Washington resident.
“During one period of contentious change, I held my ground. Afterwards, Dick wrote me a personal letter of respect and I appreciated that,” Mr. Imhoff said.
Mr. Basoco in 1987 was put in charge of overseeing the construction of the newspaper’s new production plant at Port Covington.
“Dick hired me in 1979 to build a new marketing function at the newspaper. He was a close family friend and was my mentor as he was to many of his colleagues,” Ms. Gallant, who lives in the Woodbrook neighborhood of Baltimore County, wrote in an email. "In fact. we would laugh that his door was always open except when another of his many mentees needed guidance.
She added: "He lead a team that worked closely together to build a business function that was as strong as that of the editorial side in the 1980s."
After leaving The Baltimore Sun in the late 1980s, Mr. Basoco joined Gary “Gay” Black Jr., his former Sun colleague, who had purchased Ski Racing International, as general manager and editor-in-chief, first in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and later when the publication relocated to Waitsfield, Vermont.
Mr. Basoco returned to Maryland in 1997 when he joined Baltimore magazine.
“Dick, or DB, as some of us affectionately called him, was the last of a breed of hard-boiled, venerable, veteran newspapermen, with a career that spanned hot type printing to the rise of the digital age,” wrote Ms. Marion in an online Baltimore magazine tribute. “He smoked, he drank, and he yelled. He worried about the changes and the challenges in the marketplace, but also understood that the essence of journalism, in any form, would always be about great stories.”
Ms. Marion wrote that Mr. Basoco’s desk was always piled high with stacks of rough drafts, layouts and copies of articles he wanted his staff to read.
“He was a character who swore like a sailor (the Navy, and all), happily played the devil’s advocate, and never suffered fools,” she wrote.
Mr. Basoco was a fixture at the bar at Charleston, which is in the same Lancaster Street building as Baltimore magazine, where he enjoyed sipping a Dewer’s Scotch.
“He was a barfly and he’d sit at the same corner of the bar looking at and correcting spread out layouts with a red pen,” Ms. Marion said in an interview."He was a regular fixture there."
Jim Burger, a Remington resident, worked in The Sun’s Marketing and Communications Department as staff photographer, until 1999.
“I did a fair amount of freelance work for Baltimore magazine back then and anytime I came into their offices to drop off work, he’d take me downstairs to the bar of the Charleston restaurant for a drink,” Mr. Burger said. “He was always happy to see a face from the good old days.”
Mr. Basoco retired from the magazine in 2017.
“He worked for so long not because he had to, but because he wanted to,” Ms. Marion wrote.
He was an avid reader of political history and fiction and enjoyed photography and collecting Southwestern pottery.
Plans for a celebration of life gathering are incomplete.
Mr. Basoco is survived by three sons, Andrew G. Basoco of Original Northwood, Michael D. Basoco of Mount Washington and Eric B. Basoco of Casablanca, Morocco; a brother, Robert Basoco of Lincoln, Nebraska; a sister, Ellen Basoco of Austin, Texas; and four grandchildren. Another son, David M. Basoco died in 2016. His marriage to the former Caryl Williamson ended in divorce.