Yesterday I went to say good-bye to my friend Al Terrell. This morning I am writing about saying good-bye to someone else I called friend. Tom Murray, Managing Editor/Lead Content Manager of The Daily Local, our Chester County daily newspaper.
Yes Tom, yes Sam, I know…I just buried the lede. But it is like I have to get my head all wrapped around this. And this one is tough.
It was not quite a year ago that I wrote my blog post about Tom Murray coming on as managing editor of The Daily Local .
We had a joke he and I from way back when he took over for Warren Patton at then Main Line Life (eventually Tom’s job grew and he helped create the whole thing known as Main Line Media News and bring multiple papers together.) When he had come on board to Main Line Life, I had as a local blogger and community activist with the then fledgling Save Ardmore Coalition (back in the days of eminent domain for private gain in Ardmore) sent him an email welcoming the “new sheriff in town.” He laughed and we became friends.
Just like that.
These photos I am sharing are my favorites that I took of him. September 2008 at the Harriton House Fair in Bryn Mawr. And one he sent me when I said I wanted to write about him assuming the editorial helm at The Daily Local. The other is a newspaper box from Saturday. And a photo shared by whom he first referred to as “his lady” when he first told me about her, Terry Hardin.
Tom gave a lot of us voices back in the day and today, and all my reader’s editorials were published under him. His “As I see it” columns for readers to have a voice.
But he also then became a friend.
I loved talking to Tom. He was a real daily newspaper guy. He was also a modern media guy and not afraid to try new things, new media platforms. He also was with Patch early on – when they were actually micro news sites and not just regurgitations and shameless re-publishers of the work of others that they are today.
When I was stiffed on fees for some freelance writing last year, he was someone whose wise counsel I sought. What he told me left me better prepared to take on writing assignments after that. And I loved the few choice words he had for the person who reneged on payment and said I was a lousy writer. “You know you can write, ” he told me “How many years did I edit what you wrote?”
I watched him support his late wife Diane through cancer and we all learned the hashtag #distrong . Like everyone else who knew him our hearts all broke a little when he lost Diane. And then when he met his Terry, we smiled and our hearts were happy. He and Terry were to be married.
I was at a dinner party Saturday night with my sweet man n Philadelphia when I checked my phone around 10:00 pm. At 9:47 pm my childhood friend Bob Robinson had messaged me to tell me he had heard from Tom’s son Ian that he had suffered a fatal heart attack around 7 pm. Bob and I shared Tom as a friend.
Behind me I heard the chatter of a happy dinner party as I stared at my phone re-reading Bob’s message. A surreal moment. There I am having a conversation with myself in my head “No, no, no. This can’t be true, it must be a mistake” and around me the cheerful banter of friends.
Because of Tom I got to know so many great people who I am lucky to call friends today. One of them, Cheryl Allison (who was a reporter at Main Line Media News for years) said to me
“I’ve never known anyone who was more passionate about the process of gathering and reporting the news. What many may not have known, but what I had the opportunity to witness, was how Tom delighted in finding, encouraging and mentoring talented young journalists starting their careers.”
Another friend, Caroline Mangan O’Halloran, who wrote for him when he was with Main Line Life and Main Line Media News and now pens the fabulous Savvy said to me
“I am terribly saddened by his loss. Tom was my boss at Main Line Life after Warren Patton. Tom and I bantered about (and disagreed) over many things, but he always played fair and shot straight. He respected everyone and was a kind and generous man. An old-fashioned newsman, he was a a truth teller. I too plan to pay him tribute in SAVVY.”
Truer words were never spoken. He encouraged the inner writer in both professional writers and citizen journalists. (And yes, perfectionists of the craft of writing I have done these two quotes like this on purpose. They are beautiful and I want them to stand out.)
I started blogging before it was quite fashionable, and when I started it was often perceived as a bit scandalous and definitely controversial. He was an early champion, yet would call me out if he felt I could do better.
As I had mentioned earlier, during his many year tenure at Main Line Life/Main Line Media News I wrote a lot of reader’s editorials. I wasn’t the only one – Tom was a big believer in the vox populi or the voice of the people. Tom is one the many traditional journalists I know that has helped me become a better writer. More importantly, this guy does good newspaper. He did the First Amendment and “sunshine” right.
And so I am writing about Tom for my blog. As I write I remember a really great guy and friend. And a man who was a true newspaperman, a dying breed indeed. True newspapermen are to journalism as cowboys were to founding the west. Mavericks, yet good and true. And so darn American if you want to distill it down.
I thought of Tom Saturday morning when we went over to the D.K. Diner in West Chester for a bite to eat in the afternoon. The first thing that greeted us before we went inside was a Daily News newspaper box. Way back when in the days of Main Line Life I would always tell him if a box emptied out fast. He liked to know which issues were selling big time.
Life is fleeting.
RIP Tom Murray. So many of us will miss you. I had no idea when we spoke last week it would be for the last time. The future of true journalism just dimmed a little.