Alum Bill Walsh, Washington Post copy chief, dies

Bill Walsh
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• Photo montage
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Eulogy from Kenneth Walsh

Walsh visited Ireland in summer 2016.

Walsh spoke to recent UA alum Hannah Palaniuk in spring 2016 as Prof. Susan Knight's class toured The Washington Post.

Walsh wrote three copy-editing books.

“Lapsing Into a Comma" (2000)

“The Elephants of Style” (2004)

“Yes, I Could Care Less" (2013)


Washington Post copy chief and author Bill Walsh, a University of Arizona School of Journalism alumnus who started a website on copy editing in the 1990s that received national attention, died March 15. He was 55.

Walsh, a 1984 grad, was diagnosed with cancer of the bile ducts and liver in June 2016. Walsh, who lived in Washington with his wife, Jacqueline Dupree, died at a hospice center in Arlington, Va.

"Copy editors are the unsung heroes of my profession, the folks who ensure that our work is as pristine and accurate as possible," Post managing editor Emilio Garcia-Ruiz said. "Today, we lost one of the giants in the field."

The American Copy Editors Society (ACES) awarded Walsh one of its highest honors, the Glamann Award, for contributions to the field of editing in early March.

“Bill was a fearless advocate for editing,” said Teresa Schmedding, president of ACES. “We will miss his brilliance, rapier wit and friendship.”

Walsh helped copy-edit a series on NSA surveillance that won the Post a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2014 and worked on other Pulitzer-winning projects. He served as the copy chief for the Post's national desk from 2003-2008 and chief of the night copy desk after that. He joined the Post in 1997 as a copy editor and page designer for the business section and was promoted a year later to business copy chief.

He wrote three books: “Lapsing Into a Comma" (2000), “The Elephants of Style” (2004) and “Yes, I Could Care Less: How to Be a Language Snob Without Being a Jerk” (2013)” — some used by journalism schools across the country.

Walsh started “The Slot: A Spot for Copy Editors” ( in 1995 and became a sought-after guest speaker on editing. In recent years, he tweeted several times a day about style issues and mistakes he saw in print.

When he was diagnosed with cancer, known as intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma, Walsh wrote on Facebook that he and Jacqueline "would fight this thing" but "we are realists."

"I have had a great life," he said. "I have a great wife, a great family, a great job, etc., etc. I would not trade 55 of these years for 75 or 85 or 95 of what’s behind Door No. 2."

In March 2016, Walsh talked to UA journalism students from Susan Knight's "Inside the Beltway" class at the Post newsroom.

"RIP Bill Walsh. You were a champion of the language," Knight wrote on Facebook. "We will miss you. You had style, AP style, slot man."

His career started at the old Phoenix Gazette, where he covered the night police beat. He soon joined the copy desk and when he left the Gazette in 1989 he was assistant news editor for design.

At The Washington Times he started as assistant copy chief and rose to copy chief, a position he held for five years before moving to The Washington Post in 1997.

Walsh earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from UA, with a minor in philosophy. He won the Mark Finley Gold Pen Award for best first-year reporting student in 1982 and received the Pulliam and Gannett Foundation scholarships.

In 2006, he was inducted into the Arizona Daily Wildcat Hall of Fame. At the Wildcat, he was a copy editor, copy chief, news editor and occasional sportswriter.

"My heart is breaking. Such a brilliant mind," said John D'Anna, who worked with Walsh at the Wildcat and is now Page One editor at the Arizona Republic and a member of the school's Journalism Advisory Council.

Walsh won first place in headlines from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association in 2005, 1994 and 1991. He won first place in headlines from Arizona Press Club in 1988.

A huge tennis fan, Walsh was born in Pottsville, Pa., and lived in Michigan before moving to Mesa in the 1970s with his family.

He married Dupree in 2000 in Las Vegas.

Walsh is also survived by his mother and stepfather, Molly Chilinski and Gary Chilinski of Eloy; two brothers, Terence Walsh of Frederick, Maryland, and Kenneth Walsh of New York City, both copy editors; and a sister, Jennifer Jaurigue of Chandler. A memorial service was held May 19 at the Washington Post.

The American Copy Editors Society and Dupree have set up the national Bill Walsh Scholarship for journalism students seeking an editing career. Click here to donate to the annual scholarship. Walsh's wife will match each gift dollar for dollar.

In announcing Walsh's death, Garcia-Ruiz of the Post, wrote to his staff:

"Bill Walsh's magic lay in his dry wit, urbane sensibility and pitch-perfect curmudgeonly façade that he played to great effect, a popular grumpy-old-man character that merely veiled a heart as big as the District. Bill was a doting husband, a caring friend and a worldly, engaged and passionate man, all reminders of a life well-lived.

"The tennis-playing, bicycle-riding, cat-loving, all-around-great-guy also loved hyphens. So to all the newsroom folks out there: When in doubt, use hyphens with your compound modifiers, live life to the fullest and find smart humor wherever you can.

"Bill did."

Published Date: 

03/15/2017 - 11:23am