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Jay Lovinger, classic journalism, and chess 2 min read

Jay Lovinger, classic journalism, and chess

In a fraught time for journalism, it was sad to hear about the passing of a giant

By Cary Littlejohn

Over on my blog, I wrote recently about Jay Lovinger, the longtime editor of ESPN and numerous other storied publications who died recently. Lovinger’s legacy will be in good hands due to the numerous writers he befriended, molded, improved, loved. A talented bunch when it comes to words, they surely won’t spare any when it comes to Lovinger. For me, as a green journalist just getting started, it gave me hope for the types of editors for whom I might one day write. While the news of his death saddens me as an undeniable loss for journalism, it gives me hope for the relationships that I will make with talented individuals who love the craft of writing more than even I. Lovinger’s gifts as an editor seem to be secondary to his gifts as a human, a caring and sensitive soul, a fierce intellect, and a lover of beautiful writing.

While you’re at it….

  • Alex Belth is a must-follow if you’re a lover of classic journalism. He curates timeless articles over at The Stacks Reader, among other places.
  • This weekend saw the return of college football. For an SEC fan like me, Tommy Tomlinson, once of Lovinger’s disciples, wrote an unforgettable profile of former Kentucky standout QB Jared Lorenzen.
  • This coming week, the first issue of Vox magazine with me as Deputy Editor will hit newsstands. I’m really proud of the work our staff did to get the issue out, and the first feature that I marched down the field is a profile of Mizzou’s new chess coach by Tyler Kraft.

    • Cristian Chirila, MU’s chess coach, is a grandmaster who is still ranked 524th in the world among active players. That statistic staggers me. It reminds me of a line from David Foster Wallace’s masterpiece The String Theory for Esquire about Michael Joyce, the 79th ranked tennis player in the world:

      You are invited to try to imagine what it would be like to be among the hundred best in the world at something. At anything. I have tried to imagine; it's hard.

  • To bring this full circle, Alex Belth’s post in memory of Jay Lovinger concludes with snippets of Lovinger on different topics. The last in the collection is Lovinger talking about writer Brad Darrach, in which he said:

    This lapidary approach to writing, which has largely disappeared from the world, had three effects. The first, which never concerned Brad in the slightest, was to drive editors—including this one—temporarily insane. The second was to delight readers. A third, almost incidental effect, was to inspire several generations of magazine writers here at Time Inc. During his 50 years of writing for Time, People and Life, Brad helped create and refine the Time Inc. writing style—heavy on knockout opening lines, compressed anecdotes, wordplay, puns.

    • Belth wrote a beautiful introduction to a republishing of Darrach’s masterful “The Day Bobby Blew It,” the chronicle of perhaps the greatest chess mind of all time, Bobby Fischer. For those who haven’t read it before, it’s not a straight-laced profile nor is it a retelling of a famous match, but it is perhaps one of the most astute character studies ever written. It’s a long read but worth your time, and I promise, you don’t need to know the difference between a rook and a pawn to enjoy it.