Sunday, August 31, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

William Coughlin | Reporter, editor, 91

William Coughlin, 91, who traversed four continents as a foreign correspondent before guiding a 10,000-circulation North Carolina newspaper to a Pulitzer Prize for its investigation into cancer-causing chemicals in the municipal water supply, died May 8 at a hospice in Bolivia, N.C. The cause was liver cancer.

Among his postings were Asia and the Mideast for the Los Angeles Times, which included coverage of the Vietnam War.

After other editing jobs, he landed at the Washington Daily News - a family-owned newspaper in eastern North Carolina. He rose to executive editor.

The work that led to the Pulitzer began when he noticed the fine print on the back of his water bill that said tests had been performed on the local water supply and results could be picked up at City Hall.

His reporters dug up evidence that at least three mayors, plus local, state, and federal officials, had known about carcinogens in the water and ignored it for the greater part of a decade.

"I feel it's a little ironic," he said in 1990, "after having worked in Moscow and Vietnam and Beirut - to find my Pulitzer in a little town in North Carolina." - Washington Post

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