William G. Connolly, Times Editor, Dies at 85

William G. Connolly, Times Editor, Dies at 85

William G. Connolly, who during a long career as an editor at The New York Times raised his journalistic standards, opened new opportunities to a more diverse range of employees and, in 1999, capitalized on this experience in a complete revision of the journal’s venerable style. guide, died Tuesday in Maplewood, NJ. He was 85 years old.

His daughter, Kathleen, confirmed the death. He was in a rehabilitation center after a fall, she said.

After more than 20 years at the Times — minus a few years in the early 1980s, when he left to work at a Virginia newspaper — Mr. Connolly was elevated in 1987 to a new management position in which he managed training and recruitment.

In this role, he oversaw the paper’s ethical guidelines, attracted new faces from a broader candidate pool, and turned a critical eye on the paper’s daily output with a newsletter whose title he took over “Winners and sinners”.

He demanded high standards from his colleagues, but also entertained them with his dry wit and punctuation preferences; I particularly liked the semicolon.

In short, he was a natural choice to join his friend and fellow editor Allan M. Siegal a decade later in the Herculean task of revising the venerable “The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage,” which had been in use for decades. not only in the journal but also by hundreds of other publications and countless students and lay writers.

But the book hadn’t been touched in decades, and its antiquated entries reflected a disappearing analog world dominated by white men.

Working in an unused radio studio in the paper’s former offices on West 43rd Street in Manhattan, Mr. Connolly and Mr. Siegal, assistant editor, meticulously revised and rewrote the manual’s thousands of entries, expanding what had been a slim book at 365 pages, organized from A to Z.

Rather than dictating the terms used to define a group of people, they decided the newspaper should use the words those people preferred. They also ended the debate over whether it was ever OK to use certain racial slurs, even in a quote (no).

Mr Connolly was particularly upset by the old textbook’s use of only one English male first name – John Manley – in all its examples. He replaced them with a long list of surnames, all of which mean “Lamb” in different languages: Cordero (Spanish), Agneau (French), and Kikondoo (Swahili), among others.

“He was tracking them on a spreadsheet,” Merrill Perlman, a former Times editor who helped Mr. Connolly on the book, said in a telephone interview. “He didn’t want to abuse it.”

Mr. Manley, once omnipresent in the handbook, survives in only one place: the obituaries entry.

William Gerard Connolly Jr. was born October 12, 1937 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. His father worked for the United States Postal Service and his mother, Loretto (Blewitt) Connolly, was a teacher.

He studied philosophy and English at the University of Scranton, graduating in 1959, and then entered the U.S. Army. He spent three years as a news announcer and disc jockey for Armed Forces Radio from its offices in New York.

Remaining in New York, he worked as a copier at the Times while studying a master’s degree at Columbia University’s journalism school. After graduating in 1963, he worked briefly at a long list of newspapers, including the Minneapolis Tribune, the Houston Chronicle and the Detroit Free Press, before returning to the Times in 1966.

He married Clair Connor in 1964. She died in 2013. Along with their daughter, he is survived by his sons, William G. Connolly III; Harold Connolly; three grandchildren; and his sister, Sister Jane Marie Connolly.

Although he wrote quite a few newspaper articles, Mr. Connolly was primarily an editor, with publications in the Foreign Office, the New York Times Magazine, the Real Estate Section, and the Metropolitan Bureau. He was also the founding editor of the Science Times section.

He left in 1979 to become editor of the Virginia Pilot in Norfolk, Virginia. In 1981, he began teaching for the Maynard Institutewhich hosted a summer program in Tucson, Arizona, to train journalists of color for editorial positions.

By the mid-1980s, the Times was facing both public and internal criticism for its heavy-handed editorial style and lack of diversity in its staff and coverage, and Mr. Connolly, with his particular combination of experience in management and internal knowledge of the Times culture, was a logical candidate to begin turning things around.

He returned as assistant editor on the national desk and then deputy section editor of The Week in Review, although in both positions he was given the added mission of helping open the paper to a cohort wider range of employees.

After his promotion to senior management in 1987, he created the information department’s first management training program. And it brought in a new generation of editors, not only more racially diverse, but from a wider variety of backgrounds and experiences.

His work with Mr. Siegal to revise the stylebook was his last major project at the Times before retiring in 2001, although he continued to consult on future revisions, which kept their names as authors.

“This handbook reflects the impression the Times gives of its educated and sophisticated readership – traditional but not bound by tradition,” they wrote in their introduction. “Overall, the goal is a style that is fluid, casual but not slangy and only occasionally colloquial.”

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David B.Otero

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