George Krimsky, 1970s AP correspondent in Soviet Union, dies

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Posted: Jan 21, 2017 11:36 PM
George Krimsky, 1970s AP correspondent in Soviet Union, dies

WASHINGTON, Conn. (AP) — Journalist and author George Krimsky, who covered Charles Manson's arrest, the Lebanese civil war and dissident activity in the Soviet Union and co-founded a center for international journalists, has died at age 75.

Krimsky, who lived in Washington, died Friday after a yearlong battle with lung cancer, his family said Saturday. He had a career that spanned nearly five decades, much of that spent abroad or working in international affairs.

Krimsky grew up in New York, California and Connecticut, where he graduated in 1960 from The Gunnery prep school. After attending Middlebury College, he joined the Army in 1962. Following three years of military service, during which he studied Russian and lived in Germany, he returned home and took a job as a reporter for The Republican newspaper in Waterbury.

In 1969 he began working for The Associated Press in Los Angeles, where he covered Manson's arrest following the killings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and several other people, a deadly 1971 earthquake and the slayings of at least 25 migrant farm workers, among the worst serial murder cases in U.S. history.

He later worked for the AP at its New York headquarters and then, in 1974, was posted in the Soviet Union as a correspondent. His Russian ancestry and command of the language gave him access to political dissidents including nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov, the 1975 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Krimsky held secret meetings with Josef Stalin's grandson Josef Alliluyev, who pleaded with Krimsky to help him arrange a visit to the U.S. to see his mother after she left him to seek her freedom in the West. In the end, Alliluyev's defection never happened, and Krimsky was expelled from the Soviet Union after a false charge of espionage.

Keith Fuller, who became the AP's president in 1976, denounced Krimsky's expulsion.

"From the facts before me, I can discern only that his sin was to be an aggressive reporter," Fuller said then.

Krimsky later was stationed in the Middle East, where he was based in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war. He left the AP in 1985 to help establish what became the International Center for Journalists, a training and help facility based in Washington, D.C.

The AP's vice president for standards, John Daniszewski, said Krimsky was regarded as one of the AP's finest foreign correspondents.

"He reported bravely and truthfully from Moscow, seeking out dissidents and ordinary Russians at a time when Western reporters were under constant surveillance," Daniszewski said Saturday. "His eventual expulsion was a mark of honor, and by founding ICFJ he went on to champion a free press globally."

Krimsky worked as an independent media consultant, a journalism trainer, a reporter and a columnist before retiring in 2012.

He co-authored the book "Hold the Press: The Inside Story on Newspapers," which explained the newspaper industry to regular people, and wrote "Bringing the World Home: Showing Readers Their Global Connections," a newsroom handbook.

Krimsky's relatives said he requested they not hold a memorial service so they'll have a gathering for family and friends in his honor instead.

"His life," the family said in an emailed statement, "was definitely worth celebrating."