Fellow journalists remember NY Times’ David Corcoran

David Corcoran, right, listens to a story pitch from independent journalist Heather Boerner during AHCJ’s Freelance PitchFest at Health Journalism 2014 in Denver.

David Corcoran, who as editor of the New York Times’s weekly science section was a fixture at  AHCJ’s annual Freelance PitchFest, died Aug. 4 at his home in New Mexico.  The cause of death was leukemia, said his wife, Bonnie Stetson. He was 72.

Corcoran was a well-loved editor during 26 years at the Times. He moved there after nearly two decades at The Record in northern New Jersey, where he wrote an opinion column and edited the editorial page. At the Times, he ascended quickly, starting as a copy editor and eventually working on the weekend, OpEd, graphics, New Jersey and education desks before leading the Science Times section, from which he retired in 2014.

He then moved to Cambridge to become associate director of the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT, where he launched the “Undark” podcast and mentored research fellows and science writers.

“He was a supremely graceful writer and a meticulous and insightful editor, the last of a breed of editor/scholars with a gentle touch and a literary gift” said Charles Strum, a retired associate managing editor at the Times who was Corcoran’s friend and colleague for 48 years.

David Corcoran

A man of many parts, Corcoran was a published poet, a restaurant critic who wrote more than 250 reviews of New Jersey restaurants, a podcast pioneer, the linchpin for a network of Times and Record alumni, an avid runner and a baseball fan.

At the Times and in his many interactions as an editor, instructor, and champion of young journalists, Corcoran was remembered as both joyful and generous.

“He could cut through to the heart of things,” said Alan Finder, a colleague at both newspapers, “but he always did it in a gentle way.”

After Corcoran’s diagnosis last September, a former colleague at the Times circulated an informal newsletter about his condition among his friends. Many treatments were tried, including a clinical trial as recently as July.

But his strain of acute myeloid leukemia was particularly aggressive, said Stetson. Corcoran returned to their home with a view of the mountains, and died peacefully Sunday evening, she said.

“The main thing about David is, he was the most considerate person in the world,” said Stetson, a school psychologist with whom he reconnected in recent years. “He just took care of people. He took care of me until his last breath.”

A memorial service will be planned later this year in Nyack, N.Y., where Corcoran grew up, Stetson said.

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