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Obituaries

David Creagh; brought radio news to new heights

DAVID M. CREAGH

In most newsrooms there’s someone like David M. Creagh, unflappable when news breaks and people are on the run.

“Dave was a steady hand on the tiller,’’ said his wife, Katherine, with whom he worked at National Public Radio in the 1970s. “He was the calm in the eye of the storm.’’

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As an early director of “All Things Considered,’’ he helped shape NPR’s flagship news program on a daily basis in the ’70s while charting its future and nurturing new programs that are still popular today.

After leaving NPR as executive producer of the 90-minute news show and a member of its board of directors, he developed other radio stations around the country, then spent more than a decade in Boston as executive producer of Monitor Radio, a daily news service of the Christian Science Monitor.

Mr. Creagh died Dec. 16 in his home in Blowing Rock, N.C., of complications from cancer treatments. He was 60.

While at Monitor Radio, he encouraged the company’s news operation to develop an Internet presence that would allow it to more easily provide content to a diffuse audience, said David Cook, senior editor and Washington bureau chief for the Christian Science Monitor.

Before coming to Boston, Mr. Creagh also had a role at NPR in launching other programs, including “Morning Edition’’ and “Soundprint.’’

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In addition to managing live radio news programs, he had the vision to plan for the future by helping develop funding strategies and other strategic planning, his wife said.

Mr. Creagh met Katherine Roe in Washington and they married in 1977, becoming one of the first couples at NPR.

“He had a tendency to think big, the kind of vision that makes ideas leapfrog over a more conventional pace of growth,’’ she said. “He had a capacity to see possibilities for the future of undeveloped projects and organizations, like seeing the sculpture within a lump of clay.’’

Mr. Creagh brought a varied background to his tasks.

“Dave bridged engineering and news content,’’ said John Dimsdale, Washington bureau chief for American Public Media’s “Marketplace’’ program. “He carved new ground with ‘All Things Considered’ because it was 90 minutes of live network radio, which hadn’t been done before in news, incorporating so many diverse elements, such as tape, music, and live reports.’’

To do that “takes a lot of different skills and a calmness when the rest of the world around you is excited about breaking news,’’ said Dimsdale, one of many people Mr. Creagh hired at NPR, and who succeeded him as director of “All Things Considered.’’ “The director is the fulcrum of a lot of things going on at once.’’

While on NPR’s board of directors, Mr. Creagh helped cultivate new talent and new ideas, such as the Satellite Program Development Fund, which he ran from 1979 until 1981.

He then left NPR to help develop radio stations in places such as Long Beach, Calif., and Baltimore, before coming to Monitor Radio in Boston in 1991.

“He was an essential figure in Monitor Radio because he had experience in public radio on both sides of the street,’’ said Cook, who ran the radio and newspaper operations at the Christian Science Monitor while Mr. Creagh was there. “He had strong editorial chops and he knew the business side of public radio.’’

Mr. Creagh, Cook recalled, “knew how to survive in public radio, was enormously creative.’’

Along with his grasp of radio’s complexities, “Dave was fun to spar with, because he was so smart and had a great sense of humor,’’ Cook said. “He wasn’t just a radio visionary; he was always looking for the next new thing and we’re grateful for what he did for us at the Monitor.’’

With funding a perpetual problem in public radio, Mr. Creagh also had a hand in innovative approaches. He helped launch the Alliance for Public Broadcasting, which created a way for the industry to garner funds in percentages of purchases by listeners or viewers.

Such purchases were “cause-based or affinity-based,’’ said Walter McRee, founder of the alliance and a neighbor and close friend in North Carolina.

“He moved here in 2007, where he found relief from the pressures of being in corporate work,’’ McRee said. “He enjoyed living in the mountains.’’ And even at a geographic remove, Mr. Creagh remained a Red Sox fan.

Mr. Creagh was born in Washington, D.C., where his father was a White House reporter for the Associated Press and his mother was a teacher.

At Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Md., he followed his interest in sound engineering and technical work, then studied at the University of Maryland before joining NPR as a sound technician in 1971.

At home he exhibited the same calmness and intellect that was present in his work life, said his children, Mary and Charles.

“We would wake up every morning to the jingle of ‘Morning Edition,’ and I was always very aware of the news,’’ said Mary, who lives in San Diego. “He was a calming influence on me, very steady, and that helped keep us in line.’’

News “was a passion in his life, and it wasn’t like going to work for him,’’ she said. “He was so easy to talk to. He was a realist, skeptical, and always asked the right questions. He wasn’t judgmental, but always saw through the façade. Never negative, just smart.’’

Charles, who lives in Belmont, said Mr. Creagh “taught me to be patient, to be tolerant, and to work hard to get what you want. He remained calm while keeping high standards.

In addition to his wife and two children, Mr. Creagh leaves a sister, Elizabeth Martin of Richmond.

A gathering will be held at a later date.

A voracious reader, Mr. Creagh balanced that solitary pursuit with a love of entertaining, his wife said.

“He would do what he wanted to do and never followed convention.’’ she said. “Dave was an idealist who followed his heart to the mountains. He was always pushing the envelope, and there he found peace and calm.’’

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