OLD Media Moves

Former WSJ Page One editor Mapes dies at 81

March 26, 2021

Posted by Chris Roush

Glynn Mapes

Glynn Mapes, a former Page One editor, bureau chief and Money & Investing editor in a 36-year Wall Street Journal career, who then sang opera in his retirement, died on March 17.

He was 81.

Mapes was one of the Journal’s top editors in the 1970s through the 1990s. While the Journal was known for business stories, his greatest interest while running Page One lay in finely wrought features and sparkling A-heds, and he oversaw a strong era for investigative journalism and corporate coverage as well. Fittingly, in his retirement he didn’t pursue business journalism, but instead sang bass in the Bronx Opera Company.

A graduate of Williams College, with degrees in English and music composition, Mapes also sang for many years in MasterVoices (formerly the Collegiate Chorale). He had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia a year ago.

As Page One editor, his puckish humor was sometimes on display, belying the gray, traditional page layout of the time. In one prank, he made sure that all three bylines on the Valentine’s Day front page in 1984 had a passionate ring: the reporters with last names of Buss, Valentine and Darlin. Mapes was willing to absorb some blowback from his bosses at the time, but the gag has gone down in WSJ lore.

After serving as a Navy officer, Mapes started his Journal career as a reporter in 1965 in San Francisco, covering medicine and nonferrous metals. He was named Philadelphia bureau chief in 1967, foreign editor based in New York in 1970 and New York bureau chief in 1971, editing and supervising 30 reporters. He was named Page One editor in 1975, and editor of the Journal’s special reports after that decade-plus run. In 1989, he became London bureau chief for both the WSJ and the European WSJ edition.

He returned to New York in 1993 to run the Money & Investing section. (In his first M&I staff meeting, he dryly announced that he knew nothing about either money or investing, an approach that instantly won over the staff.) He also served as an assistant managing editor.

His daughter, Susannah Randall, in a message for friends and  former colleagues, wrote: “His friendships at WSJ meant so much to him; many of them have lasted almost as long as his marriage to my mom (58 years!), and like that marriage, have prevailed through transcontinental moves, career transitions and many joys and traumas in each other’s lives. Even his relationships with the ‘youngsters’ among you have touched him, and he felt deep satisfaction in hearing that many of you believe he helped you become better writers and better reporters.  There aren’t many other compliments that could mean so much to him.”

Journal news editor Dan Kelly says, “Glynn was known across the empire for his cheerful good humor and his unstinting generosity. It’s fair to say that he was universally liked. I never once heard an ill word spoken of Glynn.”

Former Journal reporter and Dow Jones Chairman Peter Kann recalls: “In addition to Glynn’s strong judgment and light touch as a great editor he also was capable of great kindness. For example, during the decade I spent wandering around the war zones of southeast and South Asia I all too often neglected my filial responsibilities to my worried parents. I couldn’t call and too rarely wrote. So my worried mother frequently would call the Journal for assurance I was alive and well. Her contacts were Glynn and Mack Solomon. They actually had no idea how or where I was since I very rarely contacted the office. But they invariably assured mother I was just fine. The little fibs comforted and calmed my mother and for that, along with his editing, I owe kind Glynn my thanks.”

His son, Timothy, who was a Journal foreign correspondent, died of cancer in 2010 at 42.

Mapes didn’t wish to have a memorial service held in his honor. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have supported three organizations over the years–ProPublica, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Committee to Protect Journalists–and the family says that a contribution to any of those organizations would be fitting

— from the internal Wall Street Journal website.

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