Former AP Business Mirror columnist John Cunniff dies at 87

NEW YORK (AP) — John Cunniff, a business writer for The Associated Press who for 35 years wrote a column that helped readers grasp a better understanding of the economy, has died.

Cunniff, who had been in failing health since 2012, died Friday at a nursing home in Valley Cottage, New York, said his nephew, John Quigley. He was 87.

He wrote the Business Mirror column from 1966 until his retirement in December 2001, compiling nearly 5,600 columns and business analysis pieces. At the peak of the column, hundreds of newspapers carried Business Mirror, making it one of the nation’s most widely seen financial news features.

“John was a pioneer in the effort to make business news more accessible and a terrific colleague with great instincts and a compelling, easy-to-read writing style,” said Randy Picht, who was AP’s business editor during the final years of Cunniff’s AP tenure. “He also was a colleague who never met a piece of paper he didn’t think would have some great use sometime down the road.”

Jim Kennedy, AP’s senior vice president for strategy and business news editor from 1988 to 1995, said when he joined the business staff, he discovered “the breadth of our coverage ... was predominantly the product of one man’s vision and steady work over decades. John Cunniff’s contributions to the early development of business journalism at AP were extraordinary.”

Cunniff, born in Boston and a lifelong Red Sox fan, graduated from Boston University in 1951. The Army veteran who worked in the counterintelligence corps joined the AP after graduating from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in New York.

He started at the AP’s Boston bureau and worked in the Memphis bureau before moving to the business news department at AP headquarters in New York.

He was honored with the John Hancock Award, twice as an individual and twice as a member of AP teams; the Polk Award for National Reporting on racial matters in the South; a Distinguished Achievement Award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers; the Media Award in Journalism from Dartmouth University, first prize, syndicate category; and was a Poynter Fellow in Journalism at Yale University.

He wrote a book, “Live Within Your Income,” and had articles published in Parade, Readers Digest and other magazines. For 23 years, he wrote an annual summary of the U.S. economy for the Encyclopedia Americana Yearbook.

Cunniff continued writing after retiring, focusing on fiction, Quigley said.

A memorial service will be held in early spring in Massachusetts.