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RIP Chris Simmons - Harrisonburg, Va. SE

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Moderator1, Jan 14, 2016.

  1. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    I'm in shock here, one of his former writers who is one of my long-time friends (and former colleague) sent me this just now:


    I've posted on here many times that Chris is one of the best SEs in the business. Was happy at his smaller paper, producing excellent journalists.

    My hands are shaking as I type this. I have no idea what happened.
  2. steveu

    steveu Well-Known Member

    Holy cow. Didn't know Chris but definitely heard the name many a time up in these Michigan parts.

    I just tell people go hug your family. You just never know when the hourglass runs out.
  3. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    Damn. RIP to one of the best, most respected people in our business. The number of quality journalists that worked for him and moved on is legion, but more impressive is how he helped others in the business.
    I've told this story a few times before, but it's worth retelling to show what kind of guy he was.

    After graduating from college in May 1998, I applied to a bunch of papers all over the country, including Harrisonburg. It was on my route back home, so I called and asked -- I asked, Chris didn't call me -- if I could come in for an interview. Knowing what I know now about the process, it's a miracle he didn't tell me to get lost and burn my resumé for spite. Instead, for some reason, he said yes.
    I had never met the man, didn't live anywhere near Virginia, had no ties to he or anyone at the Daily News-Record that he might have been doing a favor for. I sent my resumé in blind. And he said sure, come on in and talk.
    I didn't get the job, nor did I deserve to. I wasn't ready to work there, and knowing the reputation he had within the business there were probably 200 far more qualified applicants whose resumés were sitting on his desk. However, he humored me and at least allowed me to get a feel for the job interview process. A couple of weeks later, after I got turned down, he took the time to respond to a couple of e-mails I sent him asking for tips on how to better myself.
    The stuff I learned in that interview helped a lot as I went through the job hunting process, and helped me finally land another job about six weeks later. I never forgot that, and never will.
    Neither will God knows how many other people. Over the years I've learned from reading this board that I wasn't the only one Chris Simmons helped like that. Dozens, probably hundreds, of other journalists have similar stories. Every time there was a job opening in Harrisonburg it was one of the most sought-after ones in the country, for good reason.

    I spent, maybe, an hour with the man on a random late spring day 17 years ago and never saw him again. I know he wouldn't have remembered me if I'd walked into his newsroom in 2016. Hell, I probably wouldn't have recognized him. But, in a lot of ways, he was a role model for me. As I've gotten older and remained at the same paper my whole career, Chris stands out as a reminder that you don't need to be at a major metro to do good work, be respected in the business and have an influence on the next generation.
    RIP to one of the industry's shining lights, and a person every journalist should aspire to be like.
  4. Key

    Key Well-Known Member

    Batman, Chris hired me about six months after your interview. He was either desperate or impressed with my love of food and cooking, something he enjoyed as well. I'm almost certain that shared interest is what helped get me the job.

    I was never as good as some of those who preceded or followed me. Chris was relentless as a newspaper man. Even though I didn't have that bulldog mentality, I wish I had been more eager to improve, more eager to learn. Perhaps that's just the expected wistfulness one get upon reflection of a life no longer. I don't know. I learned a lot from Chris. I could've learned more.

    Journalism lost a great man and mentor today. And I am sad.
  5. Cosmo

    Cosmo Well-Known Member

    My only interactions with Chris came via e-mail, but trust me when I tell you just how respected he was around the commonwealth. Tremendous loss. Great editor who just made everyone around him better. Rest in peace, Chris.
  6. JackReacher

    JackReacher Well-Known Member

    I knew Chris very little. I sat next to him in the JMU press box a couple dozen times maybe, talked to him on the phone once or twice perhaps. But I know very well plenty of people who worked for him, and they are absolutely crushed by this news. Devastated. They all consider him the reason they are where they are, be in Richmond, Knoxville, Detroit, DC, Dubai, out of the business, wherever. Just terrible news. RIP.
    Batman likes this.
  7. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    Does anyone know yet any details of his death? And age, family? Anything, other than that he died?

    I mean, this really is a huge loss.

    And we know nothing? Has his family requested that no information be given out?
  8. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    Chris was 61 and single. A niece has posted on his Facebook page that they'll have arrangements within 24 hours. I've talked to several of his former writers in the past day but have no information on cause of death. He was due back at work after a couple of days off, didn't show up and the paper called his landlord.
  9. BDC99

    BDC99 Well-Known Member

    Damn. Never heard of the guy, but why does it always seem like we lose the best ones way too early? Far too many of these threads on here over the years.
    RIP, Mr. Simmons. And I hope someone can point his family to this thread so they will really know how widely respected he was.
  10. JackReacher

    JackReacher Well-Known Member

  11. TC

    TC New Member

    Chris was an amazing editor and expected a lot and got a lot out of his writers. He became one of my greatest friends and mentors. I was often bummed to go to other papers and find no one (news or sports) come close to his abilities and expectations as an editor. He took no shorts cuts and made us all better writers and editors.

    Glad I heeded the inkling to drive down to Hburg and visit him when I was back home for Christmas. He posted the following in August.

    OK, DN-R Sports alumni since I've been editor (somewhat in chronological order, and I know I've forgotten somebody):

    Skip Wood (VT) -- former Richmond Times-Dispatch, USA Today reporter, most recently WJLA in DC
    Scott Blanchard (Missouri) -- former VT beat writer at Roanoke Times, now a news editor at York (Pa.) paper
    David Driver (EMU) -- free-lancer in DC area
    Tom Bergeron (U.VA., four-year intern/stringer) -- former sports editor of Newark Star Ledger, asst spts editor at KC Star, editor at Rivals.com, now editor of NJBIZ (business outlet)
    Rob Washburn (JMU, super stringer/intern): asst commish of CAA
    Bob Usselman (Drake) -- marketing in Minn-St.Paul
    Mark Berman (Syracuse) -- VT beat writer at Roanoke Times
    Mike Hodge (Hampden-Sydney) -- free-lancer in Florida
    Garrett Johnston (JMU) -- lives in Atlanta area
    Brian Costello (Penn St) -- NFL writer for New York Post
    Jason McIntyre (JMU) -- founder/editor of thebiglead.com
    Luke Vilelle (Missouri) -- librarian at Hollins U
    Will Bottinick (Wisconsin): formerly at Entertainment Weekly, now marketing in NYC
    Tom Stevens (UNC-Greensboro): sales in Baton Rouge
    Andy Mendlowitz (Maryland) -- wrote book on Irish hurling
    Sean Coughlin (Arizona) -- former Savanna sports guys, now PR in Savannah
    Mike Basgier (JMU, super stringer/intern/temp full-timer): strength coach at JMU
    Jeremy Cothran (George Mason) -- former MLB reporter for Newark Star Ledger, ex-assist SID at the U of Wash, now doing PR in Berlin
    Marcus Helton (Western Maryland) -- editor of dmvElite.com
    Joe Lemire (U.Va.) -- former SI, now free-lancer
    Brent Johnson (Rutgers) -- political writer for nj.com and Star Ledger
    Mike Rothstein (Syracuse) -- NFL reporter for espn.com
    Aaron Gray (JMU) -- sports production specialist in Abu Dhabi
    Dustin Dopirak (Penn State) -- Tennessee beat writer for Knoxville newspaper
    Mike Barber (Rutgers) -- VT/UVA beat writer for Richmond Times-Dispatch
    Tim Chapman (JMU, super stringer/intern): Laramie (Wyo) Boomerang sports editor
    Doug Manners (Quinnipiac) -- marketing in Denver
    Paul Montana (U.Va.) -- med school now
    Mark Selig (Maryland) -- asst spts ed of Columbia Missourian
    John Galle (JMU) -- spts copy editor at Roanoke Times
    Matt Stoss (JMU) -- PR at George Washington University
    Matt Jones (VT) -- current
    Nick Sunderland (Wisconsin) -- current
    Phil D'Abbraccio (Syracuse) -- about to be current
    Batman and Vombatus like this.
  12. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    Hell of a list. I've known Driver for years but did not know he was a Simmons guy.
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