Business management gurus always seem to drag out the line, “We spend more time with our co-workers than our own families,” and it’s one of those heavy clichés that are still true.
What few say is that if you’re really lucky, you form friendships with co-workers who become like family. So it is with a heavy heart that I am writing today for current and former TWICE staff members, his NewBay co-workers and industry contacts about our friend and colleague, John Laposky, who passed away suddenly on Wednesday at the age of 51.
I met John in March 1993 when I was hired as editor of TWICE and he was a young copy editor with Home Textiles Today. That summer, what is now the Consumer Technology Association contracted with TWICE to publish the 1994 Official CES Daily. I became the editor of the Daily and, due to the mammoth size of the project, needed a managing editor who could handle page production, meet deadlines and had a strong news sense.
John was recommended, and he began freelancing for us in the evenings and on weekends. From the first few days of working together on this high-profile and high-pressure job, John illustrated so many of the skills and personality traits that made him one of the best editors, and one of the best-liked people, I have ever known.
Technically John was a whiz at “desktop publishing” of the early 1990s, cranking out pages, crafting great headlines and editing copy mostly with a scalpel — or a machete if necessary. Most importantly, no matter the changes with the production maps of the Dailies, the typical technical glitches that always seemed to happen at inopportune times, or other mishaps, John was unflappable. He didn’t rant and rave like many managing editors I’ve known. John kept his cool, always coming up with a solution. And his marvelous sense of humor when all of us needed a laugh was just another added plus. He was wise beyond his years.
Upon CES’s conclusion, everyone at TWICE and Cahners, its parent company, was in agreement that John should become TWICE’s full-time managing editor. (John once recalled it to me like this: “Warren [Shoulberg, editor of Home Textiles Today] called me into his office and said, ‘You’re becoming TWICE’s managing editor.’ I don’t remember any discussion. I felt like I was ballplayer being told by the manager I was traded!’ ”)
TWICE ended up pulling off the trade publishing equivalent of acquiring Babe Ruth from the Red Sox — which is fitting because you can’t talk about John without talking about baseball.
TWICE grew dramatically from the 1990s onward, and John was usually right in the middle of any of the many new projects, challenges and opportunities for our editorial staff. John’s byline emerged to lead coverage of the wide and varied accessories industry. For me, he became a real second-in-command, someone whose advice I could rely on. He had the respect of the TWICE staff due to his strong work ethic, talent and level-headedness, even though he had less experience than some other staff members.
When we worked together, TWICE covered the emergence of personal computers, the Internet, smartphones and social media, which transformed TWICE along with the very nature of journalism and human interaction. John adapted to changing times in the media, helping and suggesting ways TWICE’s editorial voice in print and online could continue to met the needs of our readers.
He became editor-in-chief of TWICE during the summer of 2014 during a tumultuous time for the industry. In his columns in this space, as well as his blogs, his keen insights into the industry he covered for more than two decades came to the fore – as well as his humor.
Since 1994 I had the privilege of seeing a young man mature, not only as a manager and a journalist, but as a devoted husband and father to his sons.
When I received the Consumer Technology Hall of Fame award in 2016, I said that one reason why I was honored was due to the many journalists and photographers I worked with, especially at TWICE. I realize today, more than ever, that John deserves a big chunk of that honor.
Sleep well, my friend.