Tobin Coleman, who worked at WRKL in the 1980's, passed away on Sunday, August 13, 2006. Tobin was part of a sprited group of young WRKL employees back in the 1980's.
Everyone who ever met him has a favorite Tobin story. He worked in the newsroom, on the air and as night editor.
In later years, he moved from broadcast to print journalism, but never lost his sense of humor, which was necessary for survival back in the bad old days at the R.
Most recently he was a political reporter for the Advocate of Stamford, CT.
Reprinted below is the article from the Stamford (CT) Advocate.
Advocate Capitol reporter Coleman dies at 49
August 17, 2006
STAMFORD -- Tobin Coleman, a longtime Advocate reporter
who has covered the state Capitol for the past five years, died Sunday while
running on the track at Foran High School near his home in Milford, police
A school security camera showed that Mr. Coleman, 49, collapsed
while running. He was found by another runner about an hour later, Milford
Mr. Coleman had no identification on him and did not drive
his car to the track, Milford police said, and they had been trying to verify
his identity since Sunday. They released a description of Mr. Coleman and his
clothing to the media, hoping someone could provide information, police
A tip from a concerned neighbor helped police identify Mr.
The cause of death was mitral valve prolapse, a heart condition,
and cardiomegaly, or an enlarged heart, according to a spokesman for the state
medical examiner's office.
Mr. Coleman's friends, his co-workers and
colleagues, and political figures from Greenwich to Hartford were stunned
yesterday to hear of his death.
"I am just absolutely thunderstruck,"
said Advocate Publisher and Chief Executive Officer Durham Monsma, speaking for
many newspaper employees when they heard the news. "Tobin was a very
professional, businesslike reporter, well respected by the people he covered. I
heard nothing but good things about his work. He was regarded as a leader in the
newsroom. It's really a tremendous loss É given his wealth of sources and
knowledge, particularly of the Connecticut political scene."
Pisani, senior vice president and editor of The Advocate and Greenwich Time,
said "this is a tragic loss for our staff. As our Hartford correspondent, Tobin
worked hard to bring the news of the Capitol to the people of lower Fairfield
County. He was a fine journalist, a newspaperman who was unquestionably fair in
a business that's sometimes accused of bias. I was always confident that if he
was reporting on a neighborhood controversy or political contretemps that both
sides would be fairly represented."
He and Mr. Coleman, as manager and
union shop steward, respectively, sometimes found themselves on opposite sides,
Pisani said. Mr. Coleman was steward of the newsroom union, UAW Local
"I often found myself across the table from him during
negotiations, but despite our debates during contract talks, he never held a
grudge," Pisani said. "At the end of the day, we were two newsmen doing our job.
I shall miss him. He was a fine human being."
Mr. Coleman started at The
Advocate in 1991 as a business reporter, then moved to the news department,
where he covered city hall. He began covering state government in
Gov. M. Jodi Rell said her heart goes out to Mr. Coleman's
"Tobin Coleman was an especially talented reporter who had a way
of asking insightful questions that helped illuminate topics of importance to
his readers, whether it was mass transit, a legislative issue or a political
campaign," Rell said. "He had a wry sense of humor, a reporter's healthy
skepticism and a thoroughly professional attitude. The citizens of Fairfield
County were better informed because of Tobin's reporting. I will miss his
presence at the Capitol."
State Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, who
knew Mr. Coleman for more than 13 years, said he was "the consummate
professional" who was "insightful and fair" in his coverage of city and state
"He covered some of the most hard-fought races in Stamford's
recent history," said McDonald, noting the 1995 mayoral contest between Stamford
Mayor Dannel Malloy and then-incumbent Stanley Esposito. "That was an
unbelievably contentious race with all types of charges and controversy. Tobin
was able to effortlessly distill all of that information."
William Nickerson, a Republican who represents Greenwich and parts of Stamford,
said Mr. Coleman was "a reporter who operated without a lot of bluster and
noise. He never allowed himself to be the story, and, with those
characteristics, he was able to get inside a story in a very effective way and I
admired him for that. He had a very marked presence in the Capitol. I'm sorry to
have lost such a friend and person who I had a personal respect
Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy said Mr. Coleman covered him when
Malloy was a member of city boards, years before he was elected mayor in
"I've known him since he started at the paper. He was an
outstanding reporter and a gentleman and someone who will be absolutely missed,"
Malloy said. "I'm just shocked and saddened to hear of his passing. Really
When Mr. Coleman covered city government, Carmen Domonkos
chaired the Fiscal Committee of the Board of Representatives and later became
president. Mr. Coleman was trustworthy, which helped him build relationships
with sources, Domonkos said.
"He could keep a confidence, and it made you
comfortable giving information," she said, and he had a knack for breaking the
tension when discussions became heated. "Sometimes political people can get
over-intense on an issue, and he could always lighten the situation with a wry
He knew the issues, she said.
"It's really nice when you
talk to a reporter who's really interested and not just there to do a job," she
said. "It was something he enjoyed, and it came through. He was our man. We
loved having him there."
Before joining The Advocate, Mr. Coleman worked
in broadcast journalism, including stints as a news director of WFAS-AM and FM
Radio in White Plains, N.Y., and as a news anchor and reporter at WRKL Radio in
Rockland County, N.Y., and WZFM Radio in Pleasantville, N.Y.
radio, Mr. Coleman won a New York State Broadcasters Association Best Spot News
Award in 1988, and an award for best spot news from The Associated Press in
Joy Haenlein, the editor of the editorial pages for The Advocate
and Greenwich Time who worked with Mr. Coleman for about 16 years, said she
always noticed his clear way of speaking -- his "radio voice."
made what for others can be a difficult career change -- from broadcast to print
journalism -- then worked to elevate his 'new' craft," Haenlein said. "A fine
reporter, he was especially meticulous about details. He felt a tremendous
obligation to write the most fair and balanced story he could -- not necessarily
the first story, not always the flashiest, but usually one of the best and most
complete. He worked to maintain these standards even during times of intense
deadline pressure -- in the closing days of the annual legislative session, when
Connecticut lawmakers are known to finish up months of business in the course of
a day or two; at national political conventions, when reporters work practically
around the clock; and during political campaign seasons that can seem to last
"His long and exceptional memory was invaluable. He covered
practically every major board and figure in Stamford over nearly 20 years and
could recall names and details the rest of us had long forgotten -- if we ever
knew them at all. If Tobin wasn't sure about something, he would be the first to
tell you so. But if he was sure, then you could be, too."
Born May 8,
1957, in New York City, Mr. Coleman graduated from Ramapo High School in
Rockland County, N.Y., and earned a bachelor's degree in communications from
Boston University. He enjoyed skiing, scuba diving, running and cycling, and was
happy about his recent purchase of a home in Milford, halfway between Stamford
State Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said he remembers how
excited Mr. Coleman was about moving from Norwalk to his new home.
kept talking about all the space he was going to have and how he was going to be
able to play his saxophone without bothering his neighbors," Duff said. "I told
him he could even do it at 3 in the morning, after a long day in (legislative)
Susan Haigh, Capitol reporter for The Associated Press,
remembers similar conversations.
"He'd talk about improvements he was
making to his house," purchased two years ago, said Haigh, who shared office
space at the Capitol with Mr. Coleman for about five years. "We covered a lot of
late-night sessions together. He and I both liked to ski, so we talked about
that a lot, and he was just telling me how he was hoping to take some time off
in January and ski."
Mr. Coleman loved his political beat, Haigh and
other colleagues said.
"He really covered the governor's race like a
blanket. He went to everything. It was a big race for him because Malloy was
running, and I know he was having a good time," she said. "I just saw him on
Friday. He always worked late. I just wished him to have a good weekend. I just
didn't think I wouldn't see him again. He was one of the quieter guys up here.
He had a very wry sense of humor that I loved. He was just an all-around sweet
guy. We're just stunned and devastated."
Chris Keating, chief of the
Capitol bureau for the Hartford Courant and a former reporter for Greenwich
Time, said he also saw Mr. Coleman on Friday.
"He said that we would not
see each other until after Labor Day because he was going on a long-planned,
extended vacation. He was thinking about heading to the Rhode Island beaches,
and we discussed the various beaches in some detail in the area near the Point
Judith lighthouse," Keating said.
"He was very well-known at the state
Capitol, and he was a fixture at multiple events during the recent Democratic
gubernatorial campaign between John DeStefano and Dannel Malloy."
Hughes, a Capitol reporter for the Waterbury Republican-American, also worked
with Mr. Coleman in Hartford.
"I know he was close with his sisters. He
spoke about his dad," Hughes said, recalling that Mr. Coleman told the other
Capitol reporters about his trip to South Africa with his sisters a few years
ago. "He also was talking about a big bike race or cycling event he was getting
in shape to participate in. He had a dry sense of humor. He was a good
Hughes said he began to worry when Advocate editors started calling
around looking for Mr. Coleman. A few hours later, he heard the news, Hughes
"It's kind of tough, getting some news like that, to finish up the
political stories you're working on," he said. "Somehow, it doesn't seem as
Mr. Coleman started his career at The Advocate by covering
the business beat in lower Fairfield County, one of the nation's major business
Joe McGee, vice president of public policy for The Business Council
of Fairfield County in Stamford, met Mr. Coleman when McGee was state
commissioner of economic development.
"We used to compare notes on what
his sense was like and mine was like of Hartford. I always perceived Tobin to be
very fair. I had a high regard for Tobin's ability to report a story fairly and
with balance," McGee said. "He had a good grasp on state issues and the
personalities and the issues. He was a very quiet person, not a person who
shared a lot about himself."
That may have stemmed from a profound sense
of professionalism, said John Breunig, city editor of The Advocate and Mr.
Coleman's supervisor. Mr. Coleman was "the consummate newsman," Breunig
"He wanted to get the facts right and be fair and balanced, and it
didn't matter if it was his beat," he said. "He had that sort of old-fashioned
Mr. Coleman was comfortable appearing on
television and radio, occasionally representing The Advocate, Breunig
"He told me once that he was in radio when John Belushi died, and
he showed up at Bill Murray's house and was walking up the driveway in
Westchester when Murray walked down the driveway and said, 'I know why you're
here,' and he just talked to Tobin about Belushi's life."
covered the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, when U.S. Sen.
Joseph Lieberman, a Stamford native, ran for vice president with presidential
candidate Al Gore. Malloy, then chairman of the National Democratic Municipal
Officials Conference, delivered a speech to the convention.
day Tobin said to me, 'I really feel like I get my political fix every four
years when those conventions come around,' " Breunig said.
kept mementos from past campaigns on his desk, Breunig said.
enjoyed the politics of politics," he said.
Mr. Coleman was deliberate in
his approach to reporting, Breunig said.
"He would argue about fine
points in stories. He was very meticulous about language and wanting things to
be accurate, wanting to be fair to his sources, not wanting to overstep his
bounds, not fishing for stories for what you want them to be but what they
were," he said. "It was what was not said about Tobin sometimes that defined
him. What was not said was sources complaining. He definitely played it
straight, whatever he was covering."
As a person, he had compassion,
"I had a family situation a couple years ago. I was
supposed to work on Christmas Day. A family member was in the hospital, and
Tobin came in and worked for me on Christmas Day," he said.
was among the more experienced reporters, but when he was asked if he would like
to move to an editor's position or a different beat, he would say, " 'At least
for now, I'm still a reporter. I want to still do this. I'm not ready to move on
to something else yet,' " Breunig said.
Mr. Coleman did some of his best
writing while covering the refugee crisis unfolding in Albania in April 1999,
after the ethnic cleansing and forced expulsions of ethnic Albanians directed by
former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Mr. Coleman traveled with an
AmeriCares team from lower Fairfield County bringing relief supplies.
scope of the crisis was clear during the descent aboard a C-130 cargo plane.
"There is little chance that this agrarian country of 3.3 million, coming into
view below, has the resources to feed, house and care for the hundreds of
thousands of refugees flooding in from Kosovo, Yugoslavia," he wrote in his
He met refugees forced from their homes at gunpoint and
watched as relief workers filled long ledgers with the names of displaced family
members. He visited a basketball arena that was designated a "transit center"
but had become, Coleman wrote, "a depot for human misery, one stop in a journey
that began for the refugees in Kosovo, Yugoslavia, and now has no end in
Coleman's weeklong assignment to Albania was among a handful of
instances in the past decade that The Advocate sent a reporter
Tony Winton, Mr. Coleman's friend, is a radio broadcast
correspondent for The Associated Press in Miami and president of the News Media
"I'm just still trying to get over it. He was just a
meticulous professional," said Winton, who knew Mr. Coleman for 25 years. "I
knew him most in his broadcast work. He was responsible for training dozens of
young reporters in writing for radio. He's left a pretty big mark on a lot of
professional careers. He was one of a kind.
"One of his fixations was old
black and white television, 'Ben Casey' and 'Twilight Zone.' I can remember
working a late shift in the newsroom and the theme to 'Ben Casey' would come on
and he would know all the words to the intro by heart. He had these certain
factoids. He had an amazing repository for all this stuff. He was a great guy
and a great union person."
Maida Rosenstein, president of UAW Local 2110,
said she negotiated the last three newsroom contracts with Mr.
"He was somebody who cared very deeply about a fair deal for his
colleagues and É wanted to make sure contracts were equitable for everybody,"
Rosenstein said. "It's hard to imagine the union and union activity at Stamford
Advocate without Tobin."
Mr. Coleman's sister, Stacy Coleman of New York,
N.Y., said her brother always attended family gatherings and was a good uncle to
his nieces and nephews.
"He was deeply loving and loyal," Stacy Coleman
said. "When I think of Tobin, I think of the saying, 'Still waters run deep.'
At one time, she and her brother lived in Boston, and she could call
him for help, no matter the hour, she said.
"He didn't ask questions. If
you needed him, he would be there," she said.
Stacy Coleman said her
brother was committed to his fellow employees from early in his career -- he
once lost a job at a radio station because he recruited a union to fight for a
blind radio announcer who received substandard wages and benefits.
just felt he was doing the right thing," she said.
Stacy Coleman said her
brother didn't consider living anywhere but Connecticut, and was elated to
finally buy a house in Milford after saving for years.
Connecticut," she said. "He just felt very rooted there."
sister, Mr. Coleman is survived by his parents, Herbert Coleman of Riverdale,
N.Y., and Barbara Coleman of New City, N.Y.; two other sisters, Emily Perez of
Armonk, N.Y., and Melissa Weinhaus of Katonah, N.Y.; two nieces and four
Copyright © 2006, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc. Reprinted by permission.