Knowing Jack

This has been an emotional week in which I came out of retirement as a basic news reporter to write an obituary in yesterday’s Star-Advertiser on Jack Bryan, my friend, colleague and mentor who died Saturday in Thailand at 91.

Jack gave me my first journalism job in the Star-Bulletin Hilo bureau 43 years ago. I showed up for the interview as a college student only slightly better groomed than the young Neil Abercrombie, but Jack let me have a shot after nobody else applied for the 15-hour-a-week intern position. Ironically, one of the main responsibilities was writing obituaries.

It’s a cliché to say somebody taught you everything you know, but that’s pretty much what Jack did for me; I’d taken no journalism courses and had zero news experience when he took me on.

When I moved to Honolulu a year later and applied for a job at the newspaper, that time working part-time with Jack — studying his stories as I punched them into the teletype, watching how he worked news sources and carried himself in the community, listening to him talk about the job — left me well-prepared to compete for work against bright UH journalism students.

More than that, the quiet class Jack projected gave me a deep respect for the news profession and a desire to make it my own calling.

Jack was an old-school newsman whose kind pretty much disappeared in the corporate and Internet ages. He worked copy desk jobs at a half-dozen newspapers across the U.S. and in Australia before settling in Hawai‘i with his wife and three kids.

“He was among the last of a dwindling group of itinerant newspaper veterans, journeymen in every sense of the word,” said our colleague John Simonds.

The World War II generation that Jack belonged to was America’s greatest, in the estimation of Tom Brokaw, and certainly spawned one of our greatest generations of American journalists.

My week of remembering Jack leaves me a little embarrassed by the mess my generation has made of the rich journalistic legacy they left us.

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6 Comments on “Knowing Jack”

  1. Jake Williams Says:

    This this, as a retired newsman, I can only say, “Right on.”

  2. I’d be interested in reading your thoughts about “the mess [our] generation has made of the rich journalistic legacy they left us.”

  3. Michael Says:

    Don Hewitt says, “Tell me a Story”

    And you do.

  4. Tim Bryan Says:

    Thank you for helping us honor our dad.

  5. Peter Kay Says:

    My condolences for your friend & mentor.

  6. Mike Middlesworth Says:

    For a time in my years at The Advertiser, working nights, Jack and I would run into each other in the composing room and stop for a chat. He was always cheerful, friendly and good company. He was a fine newspaperman.

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