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Former AP Radio Exec. Dies

April 23, 2002

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) _ Edward De Fontaine, a veteran newsman who was instrumental in putting The Associated Press’ radio network on the air, died Tuesday after a long illness. He was 72.

De Fontaine helped launch AP Radio in 1974 as its first assistant managing editor. Four years later, he was promoted to managing editor in charge of the network’s editorial operations. He left AP Radio in 1982 to join Voice of America, from which he retired in 1997 as director of broadcast operations.

AP Broadcast Services managing editor Brad Kalbfeld said De Fontaine created a network that ``lived up to the exacting standards of accuracy and objectivity that have always been AP’s hallmark.″

During his career, De Fontaine worked on stories ranging from the coronation of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II to the Munich Olympics to war in Middle East. He was part of a Group W Broadcasting team that won an Overseas Press Club Award for spot news reporting from abroad.

De Fontaine was born in Dubuque, Iowa. At age 15, he was hired to work part-time in engineering at KDTH-AM in Dubuque. By 18, he had become an announcer, and he became a full-time reporter in 1951.

Two years later, De Fontaine joined the Army and became a newsman with Armed Forces Network Europe. After his tour of duty he returned to Iowa, but a dispatch on the AP wire about the Soviet invasion of Hungary convinced him he was ``in the wrong place,″ he said. He returned to Europe and AFN, where he rose to the position of managing editor for news.

In 1962, he joined Westinghouse Broadcasting in Berlin, and in 1969 he became foreign news editor in London.

Several years later, another AP wire report again changed his life. He read that AP was starting a ``news service in sound,″ and he knew AP Radio was ``the right place for me,″ he said.

The radio newsroom he helped launch in 1974 now serves stations with regular news, sports and business broadcasts, a 24-hour all-news service and Internet-delivered audio news services for broadcasters and Web sites.

De Fontaine was recently hospitalized at George Washington University Hospital in Washington with congestive heart failure, said his friend Shelby Whitfield, AP Radio’s first sports director. He was released to a rehabilitation center in Alexandria, Va., Saturday night, and died in his sleep Tuesday morning.

De Fontaine had survived cancer, and for two years had been cared for by his daughter Stephanie.

Whitfield called De Fontaine ``a great friend, a faithful colleague and a great broadcaster.″

De Fontaine is survived by his daughters, Stephanie De Fontaine of Alexandria and Katherine De Fontaine of Berlin; and his ex-wife, Karin De Fontaine of Berlin.

Funeral arrangements were pending.

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