My mentor was Jack Teahen
Mary Beth Vander Schaaf is deputy managing editor of Automotive News.
More than 30 years ago, when the tools of my trade were canary yellow copy paper, a No. 2 pencil, scissors, rubber cement and an IBM Selectric typewriter, my mentor was Jack Teahen.
Upon joining Automotive News, I lucked in to having the desk next to Jack’s. He had been covering the auto industry for 27 years and was the managing editor. I was fresh out of Marquette University and knew nothing about autos and only slightly more about journalism.
I was a reporter, but found myself much more interested in what Jack was doing -- editing stories from reporters in our newsroom and around the country. When I wasn’t busy reporting, I looked over his shoulder as he marked up copy. I wrote everything he did and said in a notebook. I studied it at night. (From the notebook: “Remember, you are writing for people who have invested their careers, their hearts and their fortunes in the auto business. They’re experts. When you write for them, you damn well better be right.”)
He was savvy and speedy. And when I learned he had gone through school with my Uncle Ed Mayer, he ceased to be scary.
He taught me well. After two years of studying that notebook, I became an Automotive News editor, a job I’ve had for 28 years and counting.
Jack met his lifelong friends at University of Detroit High School. He is defined by those enduring friendships and his other passions: his favorite car, the 1939 LaSalle coupe; numbers; the Detroit Lions (he was a statistician for the team for more than 50 years and saw the first game the Lions played, in 1934); hamburgers; University of Detroit basketball; the dictionary; cribbage; conversational writing; and “Law and Order” TV episodes.
He extremely disliked: fruit, vegetables, the Big Ten, icy roads, trucks (as in pickups and SUVs) and computers -- those “confounded contraptions.”
He valued faith, loyalty, accuracy, manners and his profession. Even in retirement, the man came to the office a couple of days each month to write about monthly vehicle sales.
I was delighted to see my friend receive an Ability is Ageless award in 2004 (when he was 79) and to watch proudly as he was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame two years later.
In his hall of fame speech, he said: “I’ve been in this business for 60 years and I never expected anything like this to happen to me. (Pause.) I never expected to be in this business 60 years!”
You can reach Mary Beth Vander Schaaf at email@example.com.