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Issue Date:  January 21, 2005

From the Editor's Desk

His heart's in the newsroom

When Tom Fox first approached me more than a decade ago with the possibility of moving from a job in New York to a job in Kansas City, Mo., he called on much of his 5,000-watt exuberance and fairly shouted into the phone: “What you can do here is limited only by your imagination!”

He repeated the sentiment in any number of variations over subsequent conversations. And eventually I got the point. Of course there were limits -- of time, space, budget, simple energy (though that last was probably the one he least understood). Goodness, one needed only a glimpse of the NCR newsroom of the time to see some of the limits: Sagging ceiling, chords hanging from light fixtures (many of which emitted no light), droopy wiring that attested to the place’s halting entry into the computer era.

The point, then, was that any conversation with Tom Fox, editor for 17 years and publisher for the past eight, particularly if it had to do with NCR and the kind of journalism this small project aspired to, began out of the box. It started beyond the realm of limits, and only gradually made its way back to within everyday boundaries. Where most of us might be dime-store sparklers, Fox could erupt into an aerial display worthy of Boston Harbor on the Fourth of July.

His heart, or at least a large part of it, no matter what he does, will always be in a newsroom somewhere. Which is why -- and I take a certain liberty but not too great a risk here -- his heart was never fully in the publisher’s office, an enormous burden that he bore for eight years through some very difficult decisions as well as some important steps in the company’s development.

But his eyes would be most alive, the pyrotechnics cranked to fullest blast, when he would put aside administrative details and dive into a discussion about the latest story developing or when he had time to put together an editorial.

His friend Arthur Jones, a former NCR editor and publisher himself and the one who lured Fox from D.C. to K.C., allows us a look (see Page 7) at the making of the Tom Fox who, in turn, had such a deep effect on the making of NCR.

I met Fox early on in his career at NCR as a fellow journalist and that’s mostly how I know him. As a journalist he was always able to see farther down the road than most -- and even a bit around the far curve on the horizon.

I am certain that Fox’s journalistic instincts will find new expression and new form eventually. For the moment, I offer him the gratitude of a community remarkably enriched and informed because of his boundless enthusiasm and deep dedication to the journalistic craft. Happy sabbatical, friend, and we’ll catch up with you somewhere down the road.

~ ~ ~

It is with great sadness that I report that Marcia J. Ryan, a graphic artist in NCR’s advertising department and known to most as Marcie, died Jan. 9 in Kansas City following an extended illness. She was 55.

At NCR she was a meticulous overseer of the appearance of the paper’s classified pages. Outside of work, Marcie was a skilled photographer and a great lover of jazz and blues, and she found in Kansas City and other music hot spots a way to combine her two passions. She was known for her photographs of live music performances and some of her images were published in Living Blues Magazine, Blues Review and Big City Blues Magazine.

Her photographs were often featured on the covers of NCR’s summer and winter listings sections.

-- Tom Roberts

National Catholic Reporter, January 21, 2005

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