Independent reporterConnie Lawn

A reporter, Lawn covered the White House. Unlike most members of the White House Press Corps., she didn’t work for a major newspaper or broadcaster: she worked for “Audio Video News” — which had one owner, and one employee: herself. She then provided reports to other news organizations which couldn’t afford, or didn’t want to, have its own reporter in Washington. That gave her independence so that “no one could force” her to do anything she didn’t want. When not recording radio reports, she wrote articles for various publications. “You wake me each morning,” Sam Lewis told her — at the time, he was the United States’ Ambassador to Israel. Lawn used that as the title of her 2000 autobiography. After she learned she was terminally ill, she updated the book, and its title: You Wake Me Each Morning: The Final Chapter. Lawn was very matter-of-fact about her illness: “As a reporter, it’s fascinating to see how my body doesn’t work anymore,” she said.

Lawn’s autobiography. Click for info.

One of Lawn’s longest-subscribing clients was Radio New Zealand, and when she would raise her hand to ask a question, press secretaries for multiple presidents would see her and say, “Nothing about New Zealand today, Connie,” to see if she would leave her hand up or not. But she certainly had other clients, including the BBC and USA Radio Network. Nelson Mandela once told her, listening to her reports while in prison on South Africa’s Robben Island gave him hope. While relatively unknown in the U.S., she was indeed well known in New Zealand: in 2012, the country awarded Lawn an Honorary Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her contributions to its relations in the United States; in 2006 she was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New Zealand National Press Club, which she later donated to the U.S. National Press Club in Washington, D.C. As Parkinson’s disease ravaged her body, but left her sharp mind intact, she said she envied people who died on the job. “That’s the way I want to die,” she said. “Doing my last performance.” But she died at home from the disease, on April 2. She was, at the time of her death, the longest-credentialed member of the White House Press Corps. She was 73.

From This is True for 8 April 2018