William Woestendiek, a 1955 Nieman Fellow, died on January 16 at a Mesa, Arizona nursing facility. His death came after a long illness. He was 90 years old.
He got his start in journalism as editor of the University of North Carolina’s student publication, The Daily Tar Heel. During his career, Woestendiek held top editor positions at several newspapers, including The (Colorado Springs) Sun and The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer. After his departure from the Plain Dealer, he served as director of the University of Southern California’s journalism school from 1988 to 1994, when he retired.
As an editor, Woestendiek guided two papers to Pulitzers. The first came in 1965 while he was managing editor at the Houston Post, which won for its expose on government corruption in Pasadena, Texas. The second came in 1981 while he was executive director of the Arizona Daily Star; the paper won for its investigation into the athletics department at the University of Arizona.
Woestendiek brought a populist’s sensibility to his newspaper work. He pushed investigative reporting that had the potential for broader effects. “A newspaper shouldn’t be above its readership—not aloof and arrogant,” he said in 1983. “It should be opinionated, even outrageous, but it should be sensible, informative, controversial and, above all, fair.”
Woestendiek is survived by his wife Bonnie, his three children, and his four grandchildren.