Teahen was tough and, oh, so good
Richard Johnson is managing editor of Automotive News.
"Wow, what a grouch."
That was my first impression of Jack Teahen, who was managing editor of Automotive News when I joined the newspaper as a reporter 29 years ago next month.
Of course, by the end of my first week I had changed my mind completely. He was tough, sure, but about as far removed from being a grouch as you'll ever find.
It was just that Jack was so good — damn near perfect in everything he did as a writer and editor, and he wanted the newspaper he loved so much to be just as good.
The fact that he could be a snarling editor and such a nice guy wasn't his only contradiction. Jack was fanatical about numbers. He relished columns of figures on a yellow legal pad. In fact, he was a professional statistician, the Detroit Lions' official numbers cruncher from 1948 to 2000. Yet Jack was probably the finest pure writer in the long history of this newspaper. He wrote simply and clearly and beautifully.
I always wondered if he had learned that at University of Detroit Jesuit High School, the glorious institution he attended, or perhaps from the old pros on the Detroit Free Press copy desk in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Whatever, I could never read a sentence of Jack's writing without thinking: "Man, if only I could do that."
You can reach Richard Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.