Longtime New Orleans reporter Susan Finch dies at 74
NEW ORLEANS - Susan Finch, an award-winning reporter who developed a reputation of being tough but fair during nearly 40 years in New Orleans journalism, died Saturday, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported.
She was 74. The newspaper said she died at a hospice following complications from a stroke.
Finch’s career included 37 years at The States-Item and The Times-Picayune, where she won multiple local and national awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes given to The Times-Picayune staff for coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.
"She was a complete reporter’s reporter … an utterly no-nonsense person,” Jim Amoss, a former Times-Picayune editor who worked with Finch for 35 years, told the newspaper. When asked to describe her personality, Amoss said, “Driven, driven and driven.”
Colleagues remembered Finch as a take-no-prisoners reporter, known for peppering her conversations with expletives to make her point, but whose gruff exterior masked a tender heart.
“She was a tough talker,” Andrea Shaw, a Times-Picayune colleague said. “But underneath was this heart of gold, this marshmallow.”
Finch, who was just over 5 feet tall, “always felt like she had to be the voice for the underdog,” Shaw said. “She was passionate about fairness, and she didn’t care who the person was. People deserve to be treated decently.”
Finch told longtime partner Danelle Fleming that among the stories she was proudest of included a 1993 story examining the lingering impact of the UpStairs Lounge fire, a deadly 1973 blaze in a gay bar that helped unite and empower the local gay community; writing about the integration of Carnival krewes; and her coverage of the trial of the Rev. Marvin Gorman’s defamation suit against Jimmy Swaggart.
In addition to Fleming, survivors include Jessica Mehrtens, Fleming’s daughter; a nephew, Carl Michalowski of Baltimore; and a niece, Kelly Weathers of Baltimore.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete.