by Arlene Getz, Past OPC Vice President and former editorial director, Newsweek
There’s another word that needs to be added to these moving memories of Chris. It’s prescient.
Chris was an early adopter of, well, everything. When Newsweek magazine finally started to embrace the online world, he was one of the first columnists for Newsweek.com. He shrugged off the qualms of those Newsweek writers who thought publishing online was somehow inferior to publishing in print and those who felt it was cannibalizing the magazine, loving instead the ability to see responses from readers — and engage with them — in real time. The result was “Shadowland,” which I was fortunate enough to edit most weeks that he wrote it.
Typically, the analysis in those columns was as prescient as the rest of his work.
Chris could identify trends long before they became trends. He could predict political developments before anyone else saw them coming. And he always did it in the most elegant and eloquent prose.
Chris loved technology too. Always happy to experiment with multimedia, he was the selfie king before most of us had ever heard the word. When he went to Rome to cover the dying days of Pope John Paul II for Newsweek in 2005, his coverage included numerous videos he’d shoot of himself standing in front of the Vatican discussing the latest news and his interpretation of it.That was new then and the footage could be so grainy that some of our staff videographers were leery of using it. We compromised by publishing them with the tag of “Rough Cut” — again, a usage that wasnt nearly as ubiquitous 15 years ago as it is today.
My family and I were lucky enough to spend a day with Chris in Rome on the weekend John Paul II’s successor, Pope Benedict XVI, was inaugurated. As Chris led us on a wonderful walking tour of the city, he spent a lot of time showing us how he’d worked out where to stretch his arm for the best, most flattering shot in that pre-selfie stick era.
It was during a Rome trip that Chris got his corneas burned in the incident Barbie Latza Nadeau described in her moving tribute on the day Chris died. I learned of the temporary blindness when Chris, ever the professional, had her film him explaining to me why he wasn’t going to be able to file his usual Shadowland column that week. It was a good thought, but it took me awhile to forgive him my awful fright when that video popped into my inbox. With his eyes bandaged, I thought I was getting a blindfolded hostage video.
Chris liked to call himself a bon vivant and it was certainly true that he ensured we always ate and drank well at the many meetings I attended with him. From Istanbul to Davos, from Kuwait to Jordan, he always knew good restaurants and interesting people — and was always willing to share with his colleagues.
One standout memory from Kuwait, where Chris joined me and Rhona Murphy to meet with the publishers and editors of Newsweek in Arabic: During a quick trip to a local mall, Chris spotted a pair of old-fashioned round sunglasses that I’d never have looked twice at. It was typical Chris, displaying his impeccable eye and terrific style. He made sure to wear them with his beautifully tailored suit in the hotel lobby that evening. He liked them, he said, because he thought they made him look like a character in a spy novel. He was right about that — as he was about so much else. (Here’s a picture of him in those glasses.)
Go well, old friend. May you rest in peace and your memory be a blessing.