Chris Wienandt: “They called him brilliant, classy, hilarious, kind, gentle, totally cool, a kindred spirit and a stalwart of copy editing.”

From a Dallas Morning News obit by Frank Christlieb headlined “Chris Wienandt, ace copy editor, dies at 68”:

He spent almost 40 years in the newspaper business and earned four degrees — only one of which had anything to do with journalism. He became a gifted and revered copy editor and was committed to the craft, defending the vital role of those who, like him, toiled in anonymity.

But actually, Chris Wienandt had another job in mind.

“I wanted to be an actor, and still do,” he told American Copy Editors Society co-founder Hank Glamann in 2005 for a newsletter profile when Wienandt became president of ACES. “But I think I was destined to be a journalist. I’ve always had a passion for language, a passion for knowledge and a passion for accuracy. That pretty much means becoming a journalist.”. . .

Wienandt was more than just a copy editor. He was an avid motorcyclist who joined a colleague on a trek to Mount Rushmore and rode his motorcycle cross-country to an ACES conference. He was a devotee of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which he took up in his 60s — and continued for several years after his Parkinson’s diagnosis in 2014. He even joined a boxing group for Parkinson’s patients, determined not to let the disease knock him down.

Known for his ever-present wit, intellect and professionalism, Wienandt arrived at The News in the early 1980s and quickly took on a copy desk leadership role. He became respected for his focus on getting the printed word right, his grasp of endless subjects and his calm demeanor.

I really had no right to be on his copy desk in 1981,” said Steve Kenny, a former News editor who’s now senior editor in charge of the newsroom at night at The New York Times. “I had been a reporter but never a copy editor. I had never even had a copy editing class in college. So Chris had to teach me everything at a time when I didn’t know my way around a stylebook. Those lessons have served me well for 40 years, and I would not have had the editing career that I’ve been blessed to have if I hadn’t fallen under his tutelage in 1981.

“Every lesson came with a wry crack or a joke,” Kenny said. “Early on, I wrote a headline about a ‘Looming crisis.’ He came over to me and said, ‘Steve, nothing looooms in The Dallas Morning News.’ Every time I see ‘looms,’ I think of Chris.”

Wienandt, who besides being a stickler for details could throw out puns with the best of ‘em, was known for creating award-winning headlines. But he also knew when they crossed the line into being “groaners.” Wienandt served as president of ACES until 2010, and his “Headlines as Poetry” session was always one of the most popular at the group’s annual conference. . . .

Wienandt was a tireless advocate for copy editors, kicking off the 2008 ACES conference by telling attendees that they are “as essential to newspapers’ success as their stockholders are.

As word of Wienandt’s death made its way around social media, tributes poured out among friends and former colleagues. They called him brilliant, classy, hilarious, kind, gentle, an inspiration, totally cool, a kindred spirit and a stalwart of copy editing.

“Renaissance man is a term used loosely, but Chris really did know at least something about seemingly everything,” said John Hanan, The News’ analytics editor, who was deputy copy chief in business news when Wienandt was that department’s copy chief. “On any given editing shift, you never knew whether he was going to quote Shakespeare, Mark Twain, W.C. Fields or Jim Morrison. He was one of a vanishing breed.”

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