Over the past week, I’ve spent a lot of time remembering Anne M. Buckley, the editor in chief of Catholic New York from 1991 to 2000 and one of the founders of CNY, who died April 23.
She brought me here in the middle of her tenure as editor, with an assist from Arthur L. McKenna, the general manager and the third member of CNY’s founding triumvirate under Gerald M. Costello, the first editor in chief.
Looking on from across the river in Brooklyn, while working at The Tablet newspaper, I used to marvel at Catholic New York, a juggernaut in the field of diocesan publishing. It broke in with a bang that first year in 1981, and never looked back.
Others who were here at the time can tell the story better than I, but Anne was right in the middle of the action from Day 1. She came over from The Advocate in Newark, where she had worked in the Catholic press for 29 years. She and Jerry Costello, as he is commonly known, had previously worked together there.
You might think 1981 a rather late year to begin an archdiocesan newspaper, if you don’t know the story, and that’s true. Catholic New York, thanks to Cardinal Terence Cooke, succeeded a privately owned paper, The Catholic News. To this day, many older readers still call CNY the “Catholic News.” I guess some things never change.
That may be the case, but Catholic New York was different from the beginning. It was big, at 40 pages or so each week; colorful, with four-color photos on the cover and in the center, if I recall correctly, well before that was the norm; and comprehensive, with a full team of editors and reporters meant to make a serious impression, and they did.
Anne was deeply involved and extremely passionate about making CNY the absolute best it could be, both as an editor and a writer. She pushed and pushed until deadline, only to do it all over again the next week.
When I was managing editor under her, I remember her impressing the need for “a sense of urgency” to dictate our approach to news. That meant not to put off until tomorrow what could be completed today, or in the next five minutes. At times, she drove along the process more directly, peeking at stories and beginning to edit before reporters had finished writing them. It makes me chuckle now, though at the time it was a little frustrating.
She also railed against too many “routine” stories clogging up the paper, all the while keeping the story leads and ideas flowing.
And I remember, too, the literally hundreds of notes she left on my desktop in that pre-email era, all composed in her Palmer-style, Catholic school handwriting. Each contained information she had culled by working the phones, asking questions. Those notes certainly helped me, and the reporters with whom we worked.
Anne was more than 30 years older than I, so we were not contemporaries in that sense. Even so, I loved her use of the words “delicious” and “grand” to describe things she really liked. Not many people spoke like that, even 20 years ago, but Anne did.
Boy, could she write. We have a great set of clip files here, especially from the long-gone days. Looking back at her Editor’s Report columns from that era this week gave me a renewed appreciation for how well she could “type,” to use an old-school phrase. She pumped them out on deadline, often literally the last thing to go into the issue before closing. Clear, concise, dripping with pertinent details and touching quotes. We’ve posted a few on cny.org. Go there and see what I mean.
Did we agree on everything? Probably not, but then again, the people with whom I work now don’t agree with everything I do, either.
I learned a lot from Anne in the five years I worked with her. Her tireless effort, high level of achievement and the legacy she left behind say much more about her than I could. Rest in peace, Anne.