By B.L. Ochman
I got my BA in Journalism at The University of Bridgeport, where the journalism department was headed by Dr Howard Boone Jacobson – Dr J – to his students, colleagues and friends, all of which I became.
He died in October 2013, and I just sent this remembrance to his wife, Dana Raphael. In his honor, I would like to share it with you.
I met Dr J when I was 17. I’d dropped out of school after my freshman year because my idea of majoring in French and becoming a translator at the UN was not my own and I’d been miserable – despite having the amazing Dr John Rassias as my French teacher.
When I told my dad I didn’t want to go back, he didn’t argue. “Get a job” he said. And what kind of job could a 17-year old with a HS diploma and no noticeable skills get? File clerk in an office. Oy vey.
So, at the end of the summer, I was dying to go back to college. I said “I want to be a journalist. That’s who I am and who I’ve always wanted to be.”
And lo and behold, when Howard interviewed me for the program, he agreed.
I was in heaven when he taught us about mass communications and theory and great journalists. And being able to work on the school paper was my dream. I got to learn from Bill Ahearn (chief at AP & Bloomberg)and Charley Kenny, who preceded me, and then, one day, there I was: in charge.
It was such a heady time. Politics, music, drugs, war, and more to be part of and write about. Howard let Steve Winters and I write about drugs on campus – an article that brought the FBI to my house during Christmas vacation! But Howard let us protect our sources and taught us that yes, indeed, we were real journalists. I still laugh about those FBI guys sitting in my parents’ living room. :)
“Don’t let the bastards scare you”
I can’t say I’ve ever been more proud than the day I became editor of The Scribe and got to write the editorials and direct an incredibly talented staff. Ahearn left a note, scotch-taped to my typewriter, that said “Don’t let the bastards scare you.” I still have that note, only now it’s on my computer keyboard.
Through those turbulent times, Howard was encouraging, never controlling, a partner, a cheerleader, a teacher and a friend – all at once.
After UB he hated the fact that i took a wrong turn and worked in PR. He told me a press release I sent him was “the worst crap he’d ever seen.” Ouchie! But we stayed friends, and we laughed about that in later years when PR became a successful career for me. The closest I’ve come to journalism is my blog, which has an international following, and writing for AdAge. And I always hear Howard’s voice “you can make that better” in the re-writes.
I can’t imagine how hard it must be for you, Dana, to be without your best buddy, great love and dear husband of 60 years.
Please know that Howard and you are loved by many people all over the world, and that all of us owe you a debt of gratitude for your many kindnesses.
I will visit with you soon.
With much love,
B.L. (Friedman) Ochman