The first civilian editor in chief of Stars and Stripes’ Pacific edition, who worked a combined 10 years in two stints with the military newspaper, died Nov. 1 in Sierra Madre, Calif. He was 88.
William Robert Trounson, of San Francisco, left his post as deputy business editor at the Los Angeles Times to become the Stars and Stripes chief editor in Tokyo in 1990. The newspaper had just emerged from a three-year investigation by the Government Accountability Office into allegations of military censorship and news management.
“I’m delighted,” Trounson told Stars and Stripes in when his assignment was announced. “I know there have been problems and accusations of censorship. I’ll see there’s no more of that. I understand I have the power to run a First Amendment newspaper.”
At the time, Stripes ombudsman Philip M. Foisie recommended naming a civilian chief editor after studying the censorship allegations, which included charges by staff members that senior editors had killed stories critical of the military or of host countries.
Prior to Trounson’s appointment, Stripes’ senior military officer held the editor-in-chief position. After Foisie’s recommendations were put into effect, the senior officer became the paper’s commander, with duties similar to a publisher, while editorial control was delegated to the edition’s civilian chief editor. Stars and Stripes has overseas editions in Europe and the Pacific.
Trounson was the chief editor of the Pacific edition for six years. His first stint with the Pacific edition as a copy editor and a news editor began in 1963.
Four years later, he left the paper for the Los Angeles Times, where over 23 years he held many titles, including managing editor of the Sunday opinion section, political news editor, assistant national editor and assistant foreign editor.
During the 1972 presidential campaign, Trounson helped launch the paper’s first political desk, according to his obituary in the Times.
Trounson in 1954 graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. From 1974 to 1975, he and his wife, Marilynn, studied Japanese history, politics, language and art at Stanford University under a journalism fellowship.
After graduating from Berkeley, Trounson served two years in the Army, and worked on the post newspaper at Fort Ord, Calif. Following his discharge, he worked for the Sacramento Union, and from 1959 to 1963 as a news editor for the Oroville Mercury-Register, both in California.
Trounson was preceded in death by one month by Marilynn, his wife of nearly 69 years. He is survived by his children, Lissa, Becky and Chris; his sons-in-law, Steve and Jon; his sisters, Gayle and Marilyn; four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.