Paul Ingrassia, Prizewinning Auto Industry Reporter, Dies at 69

Date: September 17, 2019
Source: New York Times

Paul Ingrassia, an author and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who placed readers in the boardrooms and executive suites of the nation’s automotive industry and put many of its leaders under scrutiny, died on Monday in Naples, Fla. He was 69.

His brother, Lawrence, a former business editor of The New York Times, said the cause was complications of cancer.

Mr. Ingrassia was the Detroit bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal when he and his deputy, Joseph B. White, shared the 1993 Pulitzer for beat reporting for their coverage of the upheaval in the executive ranks of General Motors. Their coverage also earned them a Gerald Loeb Award, administered by the University of California, Los Angeles, for distinguished business and financial reporting.

Mr. Ingrassia was the bureau chief in Detroit from 1985 to 1995 in a three-decade career with The Journal, where he was also an editor and executive. He was later managing editor of Reuters.

Mr. Ingrassia and Mr. White followed up their prizewinning reporting with a well-received book, “Comeback: The Fall and Rise of the American Automobile Industry” (1995).

The authors “excel at reporting, and they succeed in creating a genuine sense that the reader is present as much of their drama unfolds,” The New York Times Book Review said.

Mr. Ingrassia also wrote “Crash Course: The American Automobile Industry’s Road from Glory to Disaster” (2010), a narrative of the bankruptcies and government bailouts of Chrysler and General Motors in the 2000s. It inspired a documentary film, “Live Another Day” (2016).

“The city’s battered economy was reflected on the football field,”
Mr. Ingrassia wrote of Detroit in the book, “where the University of Michigan was enduring its first losing season in forty years, and the Detroit Lions were plummeting to pro football’s first 0–16 season. During their 47–10 drubbing on Thanksgiving Day 2008, fans unfurled a banner reading bail out the lions. It was a gallows-humor reference not only to the football team but also to the weakest teams in town — General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler.”

Writing in The Journal around the time the book was published, Mr. Ingrassia asserted that in return for any direct government aid to G.M., “the board and the management should go.”

“Shareholders should lose their paltry remaining equity,” he wrote. “And a government-appointed receiver — someone hard-nosed and nonpolitical — should have broad power to revamp GM with a viable business plan and return it to a private operation as soon as possible.”

He added: “Giving GM a blank check — which the company and the United Auto Workers union badly want, and which Washington will be tempted to grant — would be an enormous mistake.”

Mr. Ingrassia’s latest book was “Engines of Change: A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars” (2012), which The Times described as “a highly informed but breezy narrative history of the vehicles that have shaped and reflected American culture.”

Paul Joseph Ingrassia was born on Aug 18, 1950, in Laurel, Miss., to Angelo and Regina (Iacono) Ingrassia. His father was a research chemist, his mother a homemaker. He earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master’s at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

He began his news career at the Lindsay-Schaub Newspaper Group in Decatur, Ill. in 1973.

Mr. Ingrassia worked for Dow Jones & Co. from 1977 to 2007. From 1998 to 2006, he was president of Dow Jones Newswires, an arm of The Journal’s parent company. He was vice president for news strategy at Dow Jones when he left the company in 2007, after it had been bought by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

Mr. Ingrassia was named deputy editor in chief of Thomson Reuters in 2011 and was managing editor of Reuters from 2007 to 2016. Most recently he was editor at the Revs Institute, an automotive history research center in Naples.

He lived in Naples with his wife, Susan (Rougeau) Ingrassia, who survives him. In addition to her and his brother, he is survived by two sons, Adam and Daniel, and a grandson. A third son, Charles, died of cancer this year. Lawrence Ingrassia said his family was genetically predisposed to the disease. Two sisters died of cancer before they were 40.

In 2016, Mr. Ingrassia received the Gerald Loeb Lifetime Achievement Award.

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