The voice of reason. Most organizations have one and he or she isn’t always popular. The one who sets the deadlines a week earlier than the report writers would like because of printing requirements. Or reminds you of the times that great idea you have for a new story has already been done before, and why you shouldn’t do it again.
At our shop, that voice belonged to Carol Jordan. It was a quiet voice, out of proportion with the importance of what she had to say. But she never had to yell. She was always right. I sometimes heard people snap at her because of the stress of the task at hand. But I don’t remember ever hearing her snap back, even at me when I deserved it. She was popular.
Carol was the person who had everyone else’s back. The one who saw where the problems were in the schedules and bought us some of that extra time we thought we needed. Back in the days when our trade-show issues were enormous and our staff smaller, she went out and got the show’s schedule of events and laid it out over as many pages as possible. If we needed her to fill an extra Op-Ed page to help out, she usually had something in her back pocket. More often, when space was tighter and the news was bursting, she gave back a scheduled page of Op-Ed to news and smoothed things over with the contributors who got bumped. The news — and what the staff produced — took precedence. Except when something she had was really important, and she made sure it got in that week.
Mostly she was the person who thought ahead, not just the next week or two (the weekly reporter’s typical outlook) but weeks and months.
The last couple of years, she took on the task of final proofreading and assembling corrections that other editors made on page proofs, an immense juggling act that she did very well but that kept her here until the final pages were done and signed off. If production problems happened, as they sometimes do, that meant staying late. Carol was a single mom — her son, Jason, is 15 — who commuted to and from New Jersey, by bus. That meant a lot of coordinating with babysitters and neighbors, but she always saw her projects through to the end.
Because our magazine’s production process was known to run smoothly, we were chosen last year as the pilot for a new content-management system that’s expected to eventually be used throughout the parent company’s many publications. Carol played a huge role in spotting potential problems in our own work flow, and wasn’t afraid to say in early meetings what would work and what wouldn’t. We made it through that transition in large part thanks to her and, of course, never skipped an issue.
Over the 15-and-a-half years Carol was here, it added up to a lot of mistakes avoided, a lot of guest editorials handled with the care they deserved and just a lot of benefits to our readers of which they were never aware.
On a more personal level, Carol was the confidante we all sought out, the sympathetic friend who watched the same TV shows you did and took an interest in how your kids were doing and who made sure there was a card on your desk on your birthday, as my colleague Linda Moss recalled. Those things are important, too, though they wouldn’t show up in the box score, as baseball fans say. (Carol was partial to the Cleveland Indians.)
Part and parcel of being a non-complainer, Carol mostly kept the details of her illness to herself. She was forced to take some sick days now and then, and had been out of the office completely since around mid-summer, so people from outside the magazine who dealt with her knew she wasn’t feeling well. But most of the e-mails I’ve received the past week, since her death on Oct. 2, expressed shock as well as sympathy, for which we thank you.
Carol’s missed much here, and that won’t go away. But neither will the example of compassion, professionalism and leadership she set.