Wednesday, April 25, 2012

He Changed My Life

In much the same way I remember people who didn’t give me a break with considerable exasperation, I remember people who did give me a break with considerable gratitude.

This man gave me a break.

I didn’t know Jean-Claude Langlois had passed away earlier this month, until I saw the front page of one of his newspapers. His employees stood along the path leading into the church holding white roses. He was 77.

He built a newspaper empire and was honored with a National Assembly medal. A senator spoke at his funeral and his employees remembered him as a father to some and a brother to others.

I was 21 and fresh out of school when I walked into his office to apply for the position of Editor-in-Chief. Mr. Langlois told me he’d try me out for three weeks; I ended up staying with his company for three years. I knew him as a generous and fair employer.

He owned several French newspapers; I pretty much ran the only English one. I was editor-in-chief, reporter, layout artist, proofreader, translator and wrote a weekly editorial column, titled “Free Writes”. It was one of the greatest experiences of my professional life; editorial freedom, unlimited resources, a grateful readership and a chance to explore and test myself journalistically. I suddenly had access to a fleet of company cars, a prized corner office and a career.

Journalism as a hobby started for me as a child when a cassette tape recorder came into our lives. I would interview people, act in plays, sing and tell jokes, microphone in hand. In high school, I worked as copy editor on the yearbook. In college, I wrote concert and record reviews for the school paper and hosted a jazz radio show. In university, I wrote entertainment pieces for the paper, hosted a radio show and contributed to the yearbooks.

For me, journalism as a career started with a man named Jean-Claude Langlois.

To pay tribute, I sent an e-mail to his company website and received a gracious reply from his daughter a few days later. The last line of my e-mail reads as follows, “Au-dela de la tristesse que je me sens, je suis infiniment reconnaissant et je le serai jusqu’a le fin de mes jours.”

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