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RIP: D. Tom Patterson

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Pete Wevurski, Jun 14, 2012.

  1. Pete Wevurski

    Pete Wevurski Member

    One of my favorite people in this business left us tonight after a long, long battle with lung disease. Tom Patterson hired me at The National, which was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. I know there are a lot of colleagues out there who can -- and I'm sure will -- say the same.

    Steve Doyle had given some of us a heads up over the weekend to expect this horrible news
    and I'm sure Steve will share details on final arrangements when he learns of them.

    I'll post more about Tom a bit later.

    Our thoughts and prayers go to Anne, Josh, Kim, Brian, Jeff and the entire Patterson family.

    Already missing my friend something fierce.

    RIP, Bubba.
  2. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    He gave a lot of great journalists their breaks in this business. I met him a few times, but so many people in the business who I respected just thought the world of the guy.

    I'm guessing, but I can't imagine he was much older than early 60s.

    Very sad.

  3. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    I didn't know him at all. Sounds like I should have, and would have liked to...
  4. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    I might have been a year out of school or so when I met up with some writers and editors after covering a baseball game. Tom was there because he had worked with some of the editors at my paper and they just sat there and told story after story about working at The National. I just sat there and probably didn't say a word all night as I was just loving hearing the stories.

    I met the guy a couple times. I did not know him well by any stretch, but those who worked with him sure loved the hell out of him.
  5. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    The sports section Patterson and Buddy Martin (and Times Mirror money) created in the early to mid-1980s at the Denver Post was amazing. Huge news hole, almost right up there with Dallas and Boston. I used to buy the Sunday paper at an out-of-town newsstand every week for several years. And that section was a stopover for Rick Reilly between the Boulder Daily Camera and Los Angeles Times.
  6. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

    Never met the man, but he's held in high regard by people I hold in high regard, so that's good enough for me.

    As Rick Cleveland has noted, while working as the Jackson sports editor, Tom coined "Egg Bowl" to describe the Ole Miss-Mississippi State game. RIP.
  7. Blitz

    Blitz Active Member

    Now the Egg Bowl tidbit, I didn't know.

    I am not familiar with this guy but a "long battle with lung disease" sounds like a really horrible thing to endure, enroute to one's death.

    RIP and condolences to friends and extended family of this man.
  8. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

  9. Dave Kindred

    Dave Kindred Member

    I knew Tom for 40 years. We first worked together in Louisville, then at The National. In times when we were apart in miles, from Denver to California, we were together in heart. He was a tough, sweet dynamo. He knew what he wanted done and how to get it done. The lung disease was supposed to have killed him a long time ago. He fought it the way he lived. No excuses, no blame. I was never the fisherman he wanted me to be, so I don't know if he carried that cursed/blessed oxygen tank into streams with him, but I can imagine him finding a way to do it. What I do know, and will never forget, is that everytime I spoke to him over the last 10 years, this great friend dying of an incurable disease ended our conversations by saying, "Remember, stop and smell the roses."
  10. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

  11. Pete Wevurski

    Pete Wevurski Member

    Just a few of the reasons I appreciated Tom so very, very much:

    -- He thought outside the box long before that term was coined. I cannot remember a single news meeting at The National when, after individual sport editors gave a budget of what would be coming that night or what would be coming up soon, that Tom did not ask/challenge all at the conference room table, "How can we do this story different and better than anyone else?" He'd issue the same challenge, in one way or another, every single day. The man was relentless. The man also was on to something.
    Frank Deford tells an anecdote as part of the formal talk he gives on campuses and business luncheons around the country, how in one of these planning meetings, Tom steered him away from joining the mob in Italy covering the 1990 World Cup and, instead, going to Cameroon to cover that tiny nation's biggest moment on the world's sports stage. So Frank covered Cameroonians(?) watching their national soccer team on a tiny black-and-white TV outdoors near the airport. When Cameroon scored, it seemed like the entire country went delirious with joy. One little roly-poly lady grabbed Deford and spun him around with her in a frenzied celebratory dance. Naturally, Frank wrote this unique on-the-scene angle as only he could but he acknowledges there's no way he could have done it from Italy. Frank also says he has only one sports photo on display his home and it's the one of them dancing in Cameroon.
    Somehow, Tom just knew the detour would be worth it.

    -- Someone posted on Facebook how "Tom was known to reduce grown men to tears because of a misplaced comma" and that reputation followed him to The National. One of my responsibilities working for him on the copy desk was to make sure the trains all ran on time. This one night, we had a page built around an info-graphic that needed some serious fact-fixing on deadline. I forget the particulars, but it wasn't a graphic that supported the story; the story supported the info in the graphic. So we couldn't just sub out the graphic with a photo at the last instant. And I didn't want an edition or three to carry the graphic with erroneous information. So I held the page and blew deadline by several minutes.
    Sure enough, next day Tom calls me into his office. Covering his desk are copies of the graphic in its various stages of editing, proofs of the page, production reports and a memo from above complaining about the blown deadline. Tom asks me what happened. I tell him, pretty much the same as I outlined it here, then await the certain blistering dressing down. Tom gathers all the aforementioned paperwork into his arms, turns, dumps it all in the trash and says softly, "I'd have handled it the same exact way you did. Good job."
    Tell me, who wouldn't run through a wall of flames for a boss like that?

    -- As far as I know, Tom was the only person at The National who had the foresight to mat and frame a glossy color print of the front cover each time the paper launched a new edition in each of our 12 cities. Hanging on his office wall, the collection quickly and easily became even more coveted by one and all than one of the bright yellow National news boxes a few of us have been fortunate to acquire. Last spring, when I visited Tom and Anne for a BBQ in Roseville, Tom gave me the entire collection with the lame excuse that he didn't have room to hang them in their new home. Thank you again, Bubba!
  12. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    Having worked with a few editors who Patterson mentored, it's safe to say the "reducing grown men to tears over a misplaced comma" was something that was passed along over the years.

    The guys he mentored who I worked with were just the way Pete described. They were guys who would harp on you for every little mistake, not just for the sake of doing so, but for the sake of making you better at your job. They were also guys who ALWAYS had your back.

    One editor I worked for as an intern had worked for Patterson at The National and that's exactly the way he was and when I worked for another editor who had been at The National, he was the exact same way.
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