He'd just had dinner with friends. He came home, and while shoveling the driveway...fell and died from his injuries. Tom Jordan, a well known radio reporter in Utah, had been downsized months earlier from Metro Networks.
When I heard this absolutely tragic news, I went to my email box and searched his name. The screen filled up with dozens of emails from the last few months of his employment. I made a mental note to save them. I will not hit "delete."
Tom Jordan was rare. He was never a mean or jaded reporter. While he worked for Metro Networks, he treated me and my story ideas with utmost respect. He really listened to my story pitches with sincere interest, despite his heavy workload. He didn't act put off and busy, and kindly let me know when my story idea wasn't a good fit.
Tom respected PR people. We were his friends, not his nags. I'm sure he didn't quite understand what the word "flack" meant. Most touching of all, whenever I talked to him, I felt like his "best friend."
When Tom was laid-off from Metro Networks, he quickly emailed a goodbye letter to those of us he had worked with.
If you knew Tom, and even if you didn't, this letter will make you smile and cry (scroll to bottom of this post). It is unedited, and from the heart of someone who knew the news industry was going down hard for awhile. Tom, you will live on in my computer archives, and I will remember your laugh and twinkling eyes.
If you didn't catch the tribute, so thoughtfully written by a former supervisor and peer, Dan Bammes, in the Deseret News - you can link to it here. Thank you Dan. Your message was beautiful...and you are brave to take such a blunt shot at the corporate effect on the news industry.
[Tom's farewell email begins below]
"An inadequate letter to my friends,
The parent company of Metro Networks has downsized or closed closed many of its news bureaus, including me.
For the last eleven years, I have had a spectacular time spreading the word, and I am taking this unfortunately impersonal approach at the moment to thank you for being a friend and giving me some sort of word to spread.
I have never thought of myself as a journalist, partly because I'm not one, and partly because I spent over 20 years as an English professor. As I sat down at my computer every day to write the news, I generally thought of myself as a teacher with a really big lecture class. The point of news, as far as I can make out, is to tell people something they didn't know, and that's where you come in. Without you, there would have been no news. In personal terms, however, this position has allowed me to meet and know a simply extraordinary number of fascinating people.
What a marvelous thing it was to wake up everyday with a sense of excitement about all the interesting stuff I was going to learn. I can't imagine anything more fun (well, I probably can, but not sitting at a desk) than spending every day talking to nothing but well informed, interesting people. It was my job to talk to the people who make the news, and the reason I was talking to them was because they knew a great deal about something people might find interesting. What fun.
Many of the people I'm sending this to are the PR people who write up and send out the good stuff. Would you be so kind as to thank very genuinely the people you work with who say the interesting things and do the interesting deeds?
It is nice to think that because of what we do, we have made the world a better place, or at least a place where there's something interesting to listen to on the radio.
As to what I'm going to do next, I have no idea. Zorba the Greek probably said, "What work do I do? My hands, my feet, they do the work; me, I just have fun." Sounds like a plan. I think it is traditional to say I will be pursuing other interests. Heck, I've been pursuing other interests my whole life, why should I stop now? I believe it is also customary to say that I want to spend more time with my family. That's a great idea given where my family lives. My wife's family lives in Holland and France. Our daughter lives in New Zealand. Our son lives in Australia. And if I could figure out how to pay for it, I would definitely do it. Of course, I filed for unemployment this morning, and I have been led to believe those folks would not look kindly on me if I told them I have to run off to Europe for a couple of weeks. The Taco Bell down the road from my house says they're looking for people like me, but they used to be offering $9 an hour and they recently dropped it to $7.50. This could be tougher than I think.
Wordsworth said in his "Ode: Intimations of Immortality," possibly the finest poem ever written, that we come into this world trailing clouds of glory. I always hope we pass through life also trailing at least a few remnants of that glory as well.
Thank you very, very much. It has been a privilege to know you and work with you.