Robert “Bob” Gerson, a respected industry journalist, CT Hall of Famer and founding editor of TWICE, died yesterday. He was 85.
As his Hall of Fame biography notes, he established a reputation early on for accurate and responsible journalism, and became an influential voice in consumer electronics.
Gerson began his 30-plus-year tech journalism career as a freelance writer, contributing to the first Consumer Electronics Show Daily in the late 1960s and later joining the staff of Television Digest. He signed on with magazine entrepreneur Richard Ekstract and publisher Marcia Grand in 1985 to help launch TWICE.
Grand remembers Gerson as an industry expert who lent credibility to the fledgling publication. “I first met Bob at a CES press event,” she recalled. “He told me he knew more about television than any person on Earth, and I found it to be so true. The whole industry looked to him for guidance.”
Laying the groundwork for TWICE and facing 15 established competitors, “We needed the best writer in the field,” Grand said. “It turned out to be the right decision because within six months we were the No. 1 publication.”
Gerson’s successor at TWICE, longtime editor-in-chief Steve Smith, concurred with Grand’s assessments. “Bob was one of the first great experts covering the color TV business, and the related VCR, DVD, camcorder and home satellite categories, from the 1960s through the early 2000s,” he said. “TWICE’s reputation as the most trusted news source for the consumer technology industry was based on Bob’s work during the publication’s formative years. He was a great news reporter and will be missed. My condolences to his wife Barbara, his family and all his industry friends.”
Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), also spoke highly of Gerson. “Bob was special,” he told TWICE in an email. “Candid and tough but graceful and honest. He defined journalism in our industry. When I became part of the industry he took me more seriously than I took myself. He knew so much more than me and was generous in sharing his wisdom and font of stories. He now joins legends like Dave Lachenbruch and Art Levis who cover tech and innovation where angels thrive.”
“Bob retired before my tenure began, but by all accounts he was an extremely dedicated journalist who was fiercely committed to TWICE and to the consumer tech industry,” said Lisa Johnston, TWICE content director. “We offer our sincere condolences to his family and friends during this time.”
Said John Taylor, senior VP at LG Electronics USA and chairman of the CTA Video Division board, “The industry has lost a true giant in tech journalism. As the founding editor of TWICE, he helped establish the industry bible with the most comprehensive coverage of the sea changes in consumer electronics distribution and technologies. His industry insights were second-to-none, and even when covering challenging issues, he was always, as they say, fair and balanced. Bob Gerson was a mensch.”
Added longtime industry friend and fellow Hall of Famer Tom Campbell, corporate director of Video & Audio Center: “Bob had a passion and zeal for the industry like no other. He would go beyond the story, to the movers and shakers and to what made things happen. No matter how inside you might be, you always learned something reading Bob Gerson. It’s a tremendous loss to the industry. God bless you Bob, we miss you.”
Gerson was inducted into the CT Hall of Fame in 2004, its fourth year. He also received the CTA’s first Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000; the S. David Feir Humanitarian Award from the Anti-Defamation League; the RCA Color TV Pioneer Award; a Trade Publication Impact Award from GERS Retail Systems; and is an original member of the Academy of Digital TV Pioneers.
In a 2004 TWICE article about fellow Hall of Fame journalists, Gerson reflected on his 19-year association with Lachenbruch, with whom he worked at Television Digest. “I learned from David what it means to have a genuine affection for an industry, how to absorb its history, how to put a meaningful perspective on new products and developments,” he wrote. “Perhaps most important of all, how to appreciate and respect the efforts of those who at all levels worked to contribute to the growth of not just their own companies but the industry as a whole.”
He is survived by his wife Barbara and two grandchildren, Timothy and Laura. The family plans to hold a private memorial service.