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Bob Baker, L.A. Times Stalwart, Early Friend of NLP, Dies at 67

Bob Baker (Randy Leffingwell / Los Angeles Times)
Bob Baker, a beloved former reporter and editor at the Los Angeles Times and an early friend of the News Literacy Project, died Friday. He was 67.

The cause was complications from Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia, his wife, Marjorie Baker, said.

During more than 25 years at the Times, Baker distinguished himself as an accomplished reporter and writer with a distinctive voice and as a gifted editor and writing coach who inspired and mentored numerous reporters.

His love of journalism was infectious. His book on the craft, “Newsthinking: Making Your Facts Fall Into Place,” has been used in newsrooms and in college journalism courses.

“Bob was dedicated to the essence of our work, a Braveheart for journalistic excellence,” said Roger Smith, who retired from the Times as national editor in 2013 after 36 years with the paper. “We're going to miss him.”

Baker was also an accomplished musician and songwriter who turned a shed behind his Los Angeles home into his personal recording studio. After his retirement from the Times, he traveled to Nashville, where he hired top session musicians to record an album of him singing his original songs.

He wrote about this experience in a memorable 2007 story in The New York Times. It ran under the headline “When Walter Mitty Met Conway Twitty.”

His musical talents included a significant contribution to the News Literacy Project: Not long after he joined NLP as one of its initial journalist fellows, he wrote and recorded what quickly became the project’s anthem, “Check It Out.”

“I am a reporter, so people tell me lies,” the song begins. The refrain is an adage passed down in newsrooms for decades: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

NLP has used the song in videos and public events. It was also the inspiration for the final student projects in NLP’s classroom and after-school programs.