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Remembering Jim: A Publisher’s Perspective

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Dear tire industry and Tire Review readers,

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We are still waiting for word from Jim’s family on final arrangements and will pass the information to you when it is available. We thank you for your messages of support and will be sure to share them with his family.

As a tribute to Jim, we will share memories of him throughout the week. Today, we are sharing a remembrance that Tire Review Publisher Randy Loeser gave this morning at a gathering with Jim’s Babcox Media family. We’ve also shared Jim’s first column with Tire Review and his Ed Wagner Leadership Award acceptance speech from 2014. Throughout the week we will continue sharing different tributes to Jim.

In all honesty, Jim drove me crazy.

He could be moody, demanding and stubborn. He was argumentative – many times finding the other side of an issue just to argue it. He started many of his sentences with “the problem is.” Heck, the day before he died, his last Facebook post said “Well today turned into a crapfest.”   Classic Jim.

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Many times, Jim would start an in-depth conversation at 4:15, knowing he needed to leave at promptly at 4:30. He’d get me riled up on an idea, say we would need to finish the conversation in the morning and by 8 a.m. the next day a two–page document would be sitting on my desk with all of his ideas.

Many of the ideas were crazy, such as his plan to launch a medical marijuana magazine due to the boom in states legalizing it. Others, like a student design contest – which I by the way thought was terrible – was one Jim waited two years to launch and was one of the most successful issues in our three years together.

I remember being at a three-day conference with Jim last February. We were together for every waking hour. When the conference was over, I was looking for some alone time so I found a remote pool well off the main resort area to unwind for an hour or two.  “What are you doing down here?” this familiar voice bellowed. I was found by Jim.

It turned out to be my favorite day with Jim. We used the time to discuss the future of Tire Review, how we needed to make 2016 a big year to celebrate the anniversary of the magazine and Top Shop. We made plans to spend all of the company money on new initiatives or an acquisition. We discussed our many differences and our similar goals. Many times since our “pool party” Jim would comment that we needed another day like that.

Jim drove me crazy with his courage. He could say what he felt, call out anyone in the industry and fight for any cause he felt was worth the fight. He had the courage in his personal life to do hard things – like go back to school to finish his degree. Jim was two classes short of finishing at Kent State, and this fall, he went back to school. He was so proud of this accomplishment and surprised his mom and his kids by having them attend his graduation. Yes, at 57 Jim had the courage to walk with his class – cap, gown and all.TRteam2014

Jim drove me crazy with his conviction. He took an informed stand on just about every topic; he wanted what was best.  He wanted his editors to do the same, whether it was sending Matt Bemer back to school to hone his news writing, challenging Nichole on a cover, or sending an article back to Kristen, Carley or Denise because it was not up to his standards.

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Jim drove me crazy with his commitment. When I first started I thought, “How could anyone love tires so much and for 30 years?” I soon learned it wasn’t the tires; it was the people he loved so much. He took the role of editor seriously, often citing Bill Babcox’s grandfather as a role model for his commitment to the issues of the day – like tire safety. He was deeply committed to his family, helping his boys in many ways too numerous to mention, and went to be with his mother every Tuesday, even if it meant taking a redeye or traveling all day. In a post on Facebook on Nov. 26, 2015, Jim wrote “I am thankful for being able to spend time, however brief, with my entire family today. Especially my wonderful grandson Grayson and the Princess-to-be-named-later. I’m so lucky to have all of you!”

In death, Jim still drives me crazy, in that he has taught me a lesson in compassion. Jim was a master at building relationships with his readers and his sources, and in death the relationships have never been more evident in the emails, calls and notes received in the last few days.  Jim was considered a friend by many, and many commented how Jim was there for them.

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Personally, I’ve never been comfortable with death, but the comforting is not about the dead, but the living. Jim made it a point to drop a note or have flowers sent when someone in the industry died. I did not think it important, but Jim’s death, and the many notes and expressions to a “co-worker” like me are the greatest lesson in compassion and the example I need to show to others. It is what Jim would do.

I am thankful for the opportunity to have worked, traveled and learned from Jim Smith. When I visited Thursday with Jim’s wife MaryEllen, her parting comment was “Make sure you get it right for Jim, Tire Review was his baby.”  No matter how crazy it gets, we will get it right for Jim.

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