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Paul Benzaquin, Boston-area journalist whose career spanned print, radio, and TV, dies at 90

Paul Benzaquin, a Boston-area journalist who helped to pioneer local talk radio and whose career also spanned print and television reporting, died Wednesday at his Duxbury home. He was 90.

“He loved to to talk on the radio,” said Mr. Benzaquin’s son, DonPaul, of Norwell. “He always had the ability to relate with people no matter how much their views conflicted with his.”

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Mr. Benzaquin, who was born in Quincy, began his career as a journalist when he joined The Boston Globe as a reporter in 1948 and later was a columnist. But he was perhaps best known for his 1959 book “Holocaust! The Shocking Story of the Boston Cocoanut Grove Fire,” according to his profile on the website of the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

Mr. Benzaquin moved to broadcast journalism in 1960, when he began hosting his first talk radio program, “Listen!” on WEEI.

“If the essence of democracy is talk, as Socrates said, then communities are made more democratic by talk shows,” Mr. Benzaquin said in a 1966 interview with the Globe.

His radio career was marked by provocative and controversial moments. While at WEEI, he became one of the first local radio hosts to be suspended for cursing on air, after a technician failed to activate the delay safeguard in time, according to the profile.

“He stirred a lot of angst up on the air, but that was his job,” his son said.

After a short time hosting a radio show in Chicago, Mr. Benzaquin returned to Massachusetts in 1971 and began his career in TV, the hall of fame profile said. On weekdays he hosted a morning TV show on Channel 7, and a telephone talk show on WEEI in the afternoons.

From 1976 to his retirement in 1989, Mr. Benzaquin hosted shows on all of the Boston area’s major radio networks, the profile said. Following his retirement, he returned for another year of broadcasting from 1992 to 1993.

Funeral arrangements have not been finalized. In addition to his son, Mr. Benzaquin is survived by his wife, Grace; another son, David; and two daughters, Dorna Burrows and Laura Neprud.

Todd Feathers can be reached at todd.feathers@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ToddFeathers.
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