Jimmy Guterman

John Battelle
Aug 1, 2016 · 5 min read
Photo TEDXBoston

NewCo lost a colleague and a friend last week, and our team is still reeling from the news. Jimmy Guterman was our Executive Editor, but he was also our staff conscience, our questioning cynic, and our artful wit. Every day we’d wake up to his cheery puns and collegial encouragements on Slack — he worked on the East coast, most of us work in California. Jimmy wrote our Daily newsletter, which has grown by the thousands since he took it over. Each morning I’d be greeted by a cheery message from Jimmy: The Daily is in, with a link to the draft. And every day I’d begin to edit it, then find it needing nothing more than a quick check for typos — and even those were rare. Jimmy had found his voice in the Daily, and readers were responding.

But rather than eulogize him here, which others will do far better than we could later this week (he was a fixture amongst not only technology and business journalism, but also music criticism and production), we thought we’d publish some of the thoughts our team posted upon hearing of his passing. We’ll miss you Jimmy. You left too soon, and our world is diminished. We wish peace to your family and your loved ones.

Jimmy was among the most sensitive colleagues I’ve had the pleasure of working with. I always got the sense that his primary concern was creating something that was valued by the team. Whether we were working to create new products or refine the old, his commitment to creating value inside and outside the organization was always readily apparent.

When I heard the news I started re-reading some of his pieces. I stumbled on a short review he wrote for Rolling Stone on a random REM album of outtakes and B sides called Dead Letter Office. This happens to be my favorite REM album. What I love about the piece is that it is indicative of the work Jimmy did for NewCo. He could spot the obscure and cool things happening in the innovation economy. He could describe them succinctly and clearly. He was clear-eyed and not a breathless fanboy. But while not fueling silly hype, he still conveyed his enthusiasm. In the REM review he wrote, “…the first REM record wholly without pretension is somewhat of an event…..Dead Letter Office isn’t supposed to be something special. That’s why it is.”

Jimmy was a cheery “Good morning” waiting for me on Slack in the morning. He was a wonderful combination of gentle yet resolute. His dry sarcasm kept me in giggles, and he liked to tease me about our epic “walk and talk” in Tennessee Valley. He was an expert at his craft, and applied himself wholeheartedly. We had a lovely mutual respect that comes from being in the same industry for many of the same years, both of us appreciating the other’s area of expertise. He always made me aware that he appreciated my efforts. Jimmy was a wonderful colleague and I wish I had a chance to get to know him better. I feel like I just scratched the surface of a very deep and sharp mind. It’s so hard to believe he is gone, and my heart goes out to his loved ones

I told Jimmy he was going to have to fill in for John in Detroit — moment of silence then Jimmy: “Ok, I can do that — but you know if they are expecting John, I’m not John”, Me: “you’ll be great Jimmy, your the Executive Editor!”. Jimmy: “I better get working on my tan” Me: “ha! and maybe a new pair of jeans”. Jimmy: “I’m afraid it’s my genes and not my jeans that are the problem”. Me to myself (ok that is IS really funny — but I can’t LOL at that, can I? hmmm — how to respond.) Me: “you’ll be great Jimmy!” Jimmy: “Yeah — no problem”

I always enjoyed and appreciated Jimmy’s levity and graciousness. He always knew just what to say. I wish I had the chance to get to know him better but I know he loved his kids as they always came up in conversation. My heart is breaking for them and what he must have been going through and I wish we had known.

Jimmy and I connected on many a one-on-one car ride to and from his home away from home in Larkspur, California (where Jimmy stayed when visiting our headquarters). Our similar sense for sarcasm and good humor set a comfortable chord on those traffic-laden trips. Only a week ago, I would have said they were too long. Traffic during our commute was always such a pain. Now, sadly, I’ve been forced to realize they were much, much too short.

I always valued Jimmy’s perspective and input and looked forward to scooping him up for conversational carpool fun. He had a great sense of history, of music, and of culture. While I’m glad he will live on through his collective works and in the memories of many, I am saddened that he and I didn’t get more opportunities to careen down the highway of life together.

I feel fortunate to have worked with Jimmy — he was an intelligent, insightful person, who embodied hard work and discipline. I could always count on him to make light of any situation with his quick wit and dry humor.

I shared the same love of media, rock & roll and dry sarcastic humor as Jimmy but it wasn’t until I recently faced a personal crisis where I really got to know him more personally. He kept a lot private and hidden from the day-to day of work challenges. Jimmy reached out to me every day, checking in on me, offering a quip and bit of sage advice, and each day helping me navigate the changes in my life. I only wish I understood that he needed me as much as I needed him. He was always giving more than he was taking. I still can’t believe he’s gone. He will be missed.

NewCo Shift

Covering the biggest shift in business and society since the industrial revolution

John Battelle

Written by

A Founder of NewCo, Federated Media, sovrn Holdings, Web 2 Summit, Wired, Industry Standard; writer on Media, Technology, Culture, Business

NewCo Shift

Covering the biggest shift in business and society since the industrial revolution

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