His sound advice has helped guide both the organization and a host of copy editors who have listened to him at ACES and elsewhere.
The American Copy Editors Society presented a special Lifetime Achievement Award to Connolly, a retired senior editor at The New York Times, on Friday, April 13, in recognition of his service to ACES and to copy editors everywhere.
Connolly is stepping down from the ACES Executive Committee, though he is staying on the board of the ACES Education Fund, the scholarship arm of the organization. The award was presented during ACES’ annual banquet, held this year during the national conference in New Orleans.
“The ACES board is losing a powerful force,” said Teresa Schmedding, assistant managing editor at the Daily Herald in Illinois and the president of ACES. “Bill is always the most practical and calmest person in the room, and he has helped make this organization what it is today. We’re comforted to know that he’ll continue to contribute to this organization. Bill’s passion about editing and standards will always be a guide for us.”
Connolly joined The New York Times as a copy editor in 1966, and worked in a variety of editing positions before leaving in 1979 to become managing editor of the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk. He stayed there four years, and returned to The Times in 1984 as an assistant national editor. He was later named a senior editor, and in that role recruited, hired and trained dozens of editors.
In addition to his work with ACES and The Times , Connolly trained editors for 20 years with a summer program for minority journalists at the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education and has conducted numerous workshops for the Dow Jones News Fund. He is also co-author of “The new York Times Manual of Style and Usage.”
“It’s probably fair to say that without Bill, there would be no ACES,” said Chris Wienandt, an editor at the Dallas Morning News and a former president of ACES. “He has given quiet, thoughtful, rational guidance as a board member on issues involving personnel, policy, finances, insurance — practical, real-life issues that many of us were ill-suited to address.”
Connolly’s “Jimmy’s World” session, in which he leads editors to understand how a series of articles about a nonexistent drug-addicted boy managed to be printed in the Washington Post and win a Pulitzer Prize before being exposed as mostly fabricated, is one of the most popular at every ACES conference. Even 32 years later, “It’s still an object lesson in critical thinking and a stark lesson in how important it is to include copy editors in the process of publication,” Wienandt said.
Since retiring from The Times in 2001, Connolly, who lives in New Jersey, has been pursuing another lifelong passion – art.