Mr. Vinocur could come across as volatile, but few contemporaries challenged the depth of his reporting, his access to the most authoritative sources and his insight. His magazine article that won the prestigious Polk Award began this way:
“Paraguay works like this: A man parks his car, and to keep it from being stolen, he attaches it to a rope tied around his waist. The man is arrested walking through the streets, and charged with public ridiculousness. He has insulted national dignity, which, officially, has been restored and exalted over the last 30 years by El Excelentisimo, the President of the Republic, Don Alfredo Stroessner, General of the Army, First Magistrate of the land. Beaten, robbed, demeaned, the man eventually bribes his way out of jail. He finds his automobile on a used car lot, and informs the dealer. ‘That’s a break for you,’ the dealer says. ‘You know the real mileage.’”
John Eli Vinocur was born on May 17, 1940, in Queens, the son of Harry Vinocur, a journalist and historian who wrote under the pen name John Stuart, and Helen (Segal) Vinocur, who headed the family philanthropy office of their heiress Rosenwald Ascoli, who was concerned mainly with child welfare.
After graduating from Forest Hills High School, he earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Oberlin College in Ohio in 1961, where an English professor encouraged him to pursue a career in journalism.
He worked for The Port Chester (N.Y.) Item and The Long Island Star-Journal and Agence France-Presse in Paris before joining The Associated Press.
His marriages to Martine Weill in 1960 and Elisabeth Schmidt in 1966 ended in divorce. He married Harriet Berglund in 1985.
She survives him, as do his sons, James and Nicholas, from his marriage to Ms. Berglund; two daughters, Alexandra and Danielle, from his marriage to Ms. Schmidt; Ms. Schaap; and seven grandchildren.
Alex Traub contributed reporting.