Connolly has rewarding journalism career

The newspaper business was in his blood. Tim Connolly’s father and grandfather had worked for newspapers for two generations before him. But when it was Tim’s turn to decide what to do with his future, he wasn’t exactly sure. The Fargo native tried out two different colleges before deciding on then-Moorhead State University. Before that, he had backpacked with two friends through many areas of the United States and parts of Canada. Their goal was to reach Alaska, but they got tired of camping, and he ran low on money. Knowing his parents wanted more for him, and with an eye toward returning to college, he got a job at the sugar beet factory in Moorhead and later enrolled at Moorhead State. “I decided Moorhead State was the place for me,” he said. “It was a welcoming place.”

His first year at Moorhead State, Roger Hamilton was assigned as his advisor. He suggested Tim apply for a departmental scholarship, but there was one catch: he needed to be a mass communications major. He had some interest in writing and liked the idea of covering a wide variety of topics as a journalist, so he agreed.

Tim wrote for the university’s newspaper and worked his way up to associate editor of The Advocate by his senior year. He also worked as an assistant for Melva Moline in the mass communications department and had work-study jobs doing campus maintenance and working as a weekend cook in the food service. In addition, Tim was on the Dragons wrestling team under coach Bill Garland.

Then one of his big breaks came.

He applied for and received a Newspaper Fund scholarship, sponsored by The Wall Street Journal, becoming the first student from Moorhead State to do so. Along with this came a copy editor internship at The Columbus Dispatch in Ohio after his junior year. Upon graduating summa cum laude in 1978, the same newspaper invited him to apply for a job, but he instead chose to stay closer to home, accepting a job as editor of the Traill County Tribune in Mayville, ND. Under his leadership, the weekly won six awards in the state newspaper competition, up from zero the previous year.

From there, Tim worked at the Sioux City Journal in Iowa, where he was a reporter and photographer. He then obtained a master’s degree in journalism from Ohio State University, which led him to a copy editor job at the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. He moved on to the Austin American-Statesman in Texas, where he was a wire editor, and The St. Petersburg Times in Florida, where he was a wire editor and layout editor.

What he really wanted to do was get into international journalism, so Tim jumped at the opportunity to study at the University of Southern California, though he and his wife, Diane, had only been married for a few months. There, he was a graduate fellow in the Center for International Journalism's Latin America Program, which included a summer of study in Mexico City and travel to Cuba.

Tim’s next and final move was to The Dallas Morning News, where he worked for 31 years as an assistant news editor, assistant international editor, international editor, national and international editor and all-around “backfield” editor. “It was an exciting place to be and a good time to be there,” he said. While at the Morning News, he reported from Mexico, Cuba, Brazil, Belize, the Bahamas, China, Hong Kong and Indonesia. As international editor, he oversaw coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tim has now stepped away from the desk and busy schedule of being a full-time journalist and is adjusting to retirement. “I like not working, though I miss it, too,” he said. “I’m free of the grind, but I miss the excitement. It has been a rich and rewarding career.”

Because of the grit, humility and heart Tim has shown throughout his lengthy and successful journalism career, he has been selected one of this year’s Distinguished Alumni at Minnesota State University Moorhead. Upon being notified, Tim had one question: “Why me?”

He said he can think of numerous people who have gone on to do bigger and better things, but he is humbled to get the recognition. “I have been fortunate to have had a long career in a shrinking industry,” Tim said. “And I have my training at Moorhead State to thank for it.”

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