OLD Media Moves

Remembering Jack Patterson, longtime Businessweek staffer

November 29, 2016

Posted by Chris Roush

Screen Shot 2016-11-29 at 5.39.43 PMSteve Shepard, who was editor in chief of Businessweek from 1984 to 2005, wrote the following for Talking Biz News following the death of Jack Patterson, a former Businessweek reporter and editor, this week at the age of 91:

When I first came to BW as a cub in 1966, Jack Patterson sat in the office next to me in the old green McGraw-Hill building on West 42nd Street.  He was older and more experienced, and very much the curmudgeon even then — so much so that he didn’t even say hello for two weeks. Against all odds, we  slowly became friends. I went to his house for dinner several times, meeting his then-wife, Barbara, and their children. I felt the pain when his daughter succumbed to cystic fibrosis. He never got over the sadness of losing his daughter as a young girl.

Jack was a Southerner from Atlanta, and had the accent to prove it.  He had covered the civil rights movement for BW from the Atlanta bureau and came to New York, when race relations had become a critical issue, to write major stories about the role business was playing and should play.  By stressing the business angle, Jack pioneered some strong coverage. He was on the right side of history.

I moved to BW’s London bureau in 1968. Jack came to visit and we travelled together. After I left BW in 1975, we stayed good friends. When I returned as executive editor in 1982, our professional roles shifted. He was now a senior editor, a first reader, as we called them, and when I was the environment editor, he edited my copy. I learned a lot from him. Later, he became editor of the editorial page, which he made more thoughtful and erudite. No surprise: Jack, who had a master’s degree in literature from Columbia, was one of the best-read people at the magazine.

Shortly after I became editor in 1984, I asked Jack to write a cover story called “Capitalism and the Church,” examining the notion of corporate social responsibility from a religious perspective.  A religious person himself, he produced a masterful exegesis.

He retired soon after, but we stayed friends for a long time, until we lost touch a few years ago. I always felt close to him, personally and professionally, and I mourn his loss.

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