Legendary ‘NY Times’ Newsman R.W. ‘Johnny’ Apple Dies

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By: E&P Staff

Legendary New York Times correspondent, editor, reporter and food columnist R.W. “Johnny” Apple, who worked for the newspaper for more than 40 years, died this morning after a long struggle with thoracic cancer. He was 71.

A memo from the newspaper’s executive editor Bill Keller to Times staffers today describes Apple’s struggle with cancer as “valiant” and says Apple spent his final days working and involved with the details of everyday life.

“He was himself to the last,” writes Keller. “Johnny leaves behind bereft legions of friends, colleagues, proteges and imitators, admiring competitors and grateful readers, and his beloved Betsey. He leaves, too, a hole in the heart of the paper he adored, and an empty place a countless tables.”

In his long career for the Times, Apple filed stories from 100 different countries, working at various times as the paper’s bureau chief in Albany, Lagos, Nairobi, Saigon, Moscow, London and Washington. He covered 10 presidential elections for the newspaper as well as over 20 national nominating conventions, and was a longtime political correspondent for the paper. In recent decades he was known for his front-page “News Analysis” articles, which distilled events of the day into larger perspective.

Apple started as a reporter on the paper’s city desk in 1963. He headed up the newspaper’s coverage of the war in Vietnam for two and a half years in the 1960s, he chronicled the Iranian revolution in the late 1970s and he led coverage of the Persian Gulf war in the earoly 1990s.

An obituary in the paper today describes him as remaining “a colorful figure as new generations of journalists around him grew more pallid.” The article praises his “encyclopedic knowledge and grace of expression” as inspiring envy in those around him.

“Newspaper people love impossible dreams,” Apple is quoted as having said to Lear’s magazine. “I suppose we?re reckless sentimentalists. If we didn’t love impossible dreams, we would not still be working in an industry whose basic technology was developed in the 16th and 17th centuries.”

To read the full New York Times obituary by Todd Purdum, click here.

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