Paul Grabowicz, described by colleagues as a gruff newspaperman with a big heart, who worked for Newsday in the 1970s and later became a teacher of digital journalism, died Thursday of cancer at 66.
Grabowicz, who had been a Newsday special correspondent in California, spent most of his journalism career at the Oakland Tribune as an investigative reporter.
He was a senior lecturer at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism at the time of his death. Grabowicz began teaching at Berkeley in 1995 and founded the journalism school’s New Media Program, according to an obituary on the school’s website.
Colleagues remembered him as an outspoken and dogged reporter going after corruption.
Carolyn Newbergh, who was an investigative reporter with Grabowicz at the Tribune in the 1990s, said “he had this gruff exterior and a heart of gold.”
“Grabs,” as he was known, would also curse — a lot.
“At his editor, at the owner of the paper. Stuff anyone else would lose their job over,” Newbergh said. But “everyone knew where he was coming from.”
With an old-school journalism demeanor and values, he managed to embrace new technology as a way to help tell stories. He helped found the Knight Digital Media Center, which teaches digital skills to journalists.
Jeremy Rue, a former student and currently a lecturer at the school, said Grabowicz saw technology as a tool.
“He wanted to give voice to the voiceless, the prophetic ideals and civic mission of journalism,” Rue said.
Grabowicz was born in Southwick, Massachusetts, where he picked tobacco as a kid. His parents died when he was a teenager.
Grabowicz is survived by his wife, Anne Miller-Grabowicz. The two met in the early 1980s at the Tribune, where she worked in marketing.
The marketing department always wanted him on film for commercials, his wife said.
“He was the epitome of the newsman, sitting at a typewriter, banging away with a cigarette hanging from his mouth,” she said.
But she was attracted to his gentleness. He loved animals and the outdoors.
“He had a beautiful heart,” she said.
Grabowicz was diagnosed with cancer in December, 2014. He died at home in Pleasant Hill, California, with his wife by his side.