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An Appreciation

True reward for one’s hard work is very hard to come by these days. There are many examples of this in the 21st century business world: wage stagnation, the constant downward pressure on budgets and labor costs; the disappearance of pensions and rising health insurance premiums. There are days when it seems like your only reward is the chance to go home and turn around and do it all again tomorrow.

Occasionally though, if you’re lucky, you’ll have one of those days when your hard work gets a bit of credit. Maybe it’s recognized by a small raise, or a promotion, an award or simply a free lunch, but the appreciation of a boss or peer — or even a competitor — can make a job seem worth all the effort.

Steve Smith had one of those days recently, on a grand scale.

Steve, who was the editor in chief of TWICE for many years, found out he will be inducted into the Consumer Technology Hall of Fame this fall. He was voted in by a panel of his peers and probably some who considered him a competitor.

It is well-deserved for a man who devoted more than 30 years of his life to telling the stories of the consumer electronics industry.

Steve is an old-school news guy, one who came out of the City College of New York with a journalism degree at a time when newspapers were plentiful, and valued, and the main game in town for real news.

He viewed journalism as vital, and sacred, and his approach to a story never wavered. Accuracy, integrity, objectivity — it all meant the world to him.

I began working for Steve in 1993 when I was hired as a freelancer to attend CES with the TWICE staff that had just been awarded the production of the Official CES Daily in Las Vegas. We hit it off immediately when we realized we were both baseball and jazz fanatics. Over the years I probably discussed baseball and music with Steve as much as any other topics, and he had a treasure trove of historical anecdotes to draw from.

Steve tells a great story and that’s part of his charm, but what really sets Steve apart is the way he treats people. I’ve never had a more respectful, kind and honest boss than him. Over the years there was never any B.S. with Steve. He told you what he thought, and why he thought it, and worked to make everyone around him understand the significance of what he we observing. That kind of frankness and transparency from a supervisor is rare, not to mention welcome.

I spent 23 years working closely with Steve and the word boss never quite fit for me. He was a mentor, a scrupulous example of professionalism, and most importantly, he was a friend.

When Steve decided to step down from his post at TWICE I asked him bluntly, “Steve, do I want this job?” He smiled and said, “I was hoping you would ask me that question.” He proceeded to spell out the pluses and minuses in his nakedly honest manner. And then he stopped and looked at me and said: “John, only pursue this job if you truly want it, if it’s in your heart, because any extra money or notoriety that you may get from it won’t make it worth it if you’re not happy.” He then, of course, told a story of going to Yankee Stadium as a kid and seeing his hero Mickey Mantle, very late in his career and hobbling on two wrecked knees, hit a home run. “He did it because he still loved playing,” he said.

Congratulations Steve, and thanks for 23 years of sound advice and terrific stories. It’s encouraging to know that sometimes nice guys do finish first.