CT Journalism Hall of Fame: Robert J. Leeney
Born May 10, 1916, Leeney began his long and distinguished journalism career in 1939 as a freelancer and joined the staff at the Register in 1940 as a reporter, Sunday feature writer and book page editor. His career was interrupted beginning in January 1943 when he served with the 3rd Air Commando Group, 5th Air Force during World War II. Upon his return in December 1945, Leeney came back to the paper. By 1947, the New Haven native began to also serve as a drama critic.
He was an editorial writer and editor of the editorial page for the Register and the Journal Courier from 1947 to 1961. He became executive editor in 1962 and served as editor from 1972 to 1981, when he allegedly retired. He has since continued to write a weekly column, “Editor’s Note,” for the Register.
He was a charter member of the Connecticut SPJ chapter and served as commissioner of the Freedom on Information Commission from 1981 to 1986. He has won numerous awards, including the Yankee Quill Award for distinguished service to journalism and the Seal of the City Award from the New Haven Colony Historical Society in recognition of his contribution’s to New Haven’s civic life. City officials have even named a local plaza after him.
Leeney counts among his greatest accomplishments the technological modernization of the Register, introducing letters to the editor and starting the Sunday arts and leisure section.
“In the 60’s, every community newspaper was a family-owned newspaper. Today the connection to the community is nearly non-existent,” he said. “The papers are far more professionalized. The staff is on the whole, better educated and they have a better general knowledge of public issues.”
Leeney passed away in 2008 at the age of 92.