Farewell to the chief

December 16, 1991

A few years ago there was a popular TV series called "The Lou Grant Show," in which Ed Asner played an old-fashioned managing editor of a big city daily newspaper. The program glamorized the newspaper business -- gathering the news involves mainly the grunt work of dialing the phone and pounding the pavement -- but the character portrayed by Asner was genuine: cranky, impatient, tough-minded, skeptical if not cynical, but ultimately a compassionate and revered father-figure all his staff. We know he was genuine, because that character easily could have been modeled after Jack Lemmon; Lou even looked like Jack.

So there is understandable sadness that John M. Lemmon is writing "30" -- the newspaper shorthand for "end of story" -- to a distinguished career in journalism, the last 12 years of which were spent as managing editor of The Evening Sun. He came to be known in the newsroom as a guy who wanted to get the story first, and right, and beat the competition, whatever it was. His flinty integrity and cool professional judgment have been the anchors that have kept this newspaper vital in a time when evening newspapers were in decline all over the country. Indeed, The Evening Sun is about the last surviving afternoon daily on the East Coast which still has a substantial circulation, and in large measure that survival was due to the leadership provided by Jack Lemmon.

His name comes off the masthead at the end of the year; his imprint will remain in the work of the dedicated staff he assembled and directed in a time when the demands on a big city newspaper were very great indeed.

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