If you liked this week’s “‘Amageddon’: How Amazon’s culture is taking a toll on Seattle’s future,” there are two people that you may wish to follow, unfortunately, one has passed on and you can only read some of her earlier material.

Jeanne Sather

jeanne-satherBack in 2002, I took a UW Extension course on non-fiction writing taught by journalist Jeanne Sather. She taught me how to write well, how to interview, how to pitch and how to get paid. She was tenacious and pushed her students to have backbone. Without Jeanne, I wouldn’t be a published writer. Building skill in my writing has opened up a lot of doors and opportunities for me, and I’m very thankful for her teaching and encouragement.

Jeanne developed breast cancer in 1998 and died in 2013 – that should tell you something about how strong a person she was. In 2003, she wrote about cancer in a cover story for Seattle Weekly, “Running with Fear: Confessions of a breast cancer poster child.” Jeanne hated the hypocrisy of pink cancer promotions and much of the language associated with cancer e.g. “so and so lost their battle with cancer.” For years, she blogged at Assertive Cancer Patient advocating; when I looked today the site was down – at least temporarily. You can see it at the Internet Archive, though I struggled to load recent pages there. She wrote her own obituary which is available at her blog and hopefully will come up again in the archive. You can also read the Seattle Times’ obituary of her.

Chuck Taylor

Chuck’s still alive and will probably be annoyed to be mentioned here (at least on the surface). Jeanne encouraged me to pitch a Microsoft article idea to Chuck at the Seattle Weekly back in 2004. I remember the day we met for coffee to discuss it in person because Google had chosen to launch Gmail with a gigabyte of free storage on April 1st, 2004 – and I thought it might be an April’s Fools joke.

Despite that misjudgment and me being a new writer, Chuck helped mentor me enough to deliver Microsoft’s Sacred Cash Cow, which began a ten year journey reporting on Microsoft’s billion dollar Nevada tax dodge; the impact continues to this day. I also produced two more covers for Chuck and the Weekly that year. Quite a big step for a new writer – I think this shows what great teachers and mentors they are.

Chuck taught me to check all my facts, to back up everything and to be able to definitively explain why I know what I wrote in each and every sentence. It’s an invaluable lesson to a new journalist.

So, thank you Chuck. Chuck’s now at the Everett Herald which has been in the center of some huge stories such as the tragic Marysville shooting and the Oso Mudslide. You can follow Chuck on Twitter @chcktylr.

Personally, I’ve felt this has been a break out year for me as a writer – this past week’s Amazon piece, May’s Too many dudes: Amazon’s growth is ruining Seattle’s dating scene, says single guy and August’s Where are Washington’s K-12 dollars? Just ask Microsoft shareholders – which actually led to protests and Shining Light on Internet Rage, et al.

Teaching and mentoring matters. Thank you Chuck and Jeanne.


Posted by Jeff Reifman

Jeff is a technology consultant based in the Pacific Northwest.

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