By Susan Adler Thorp

For Memphis journalists who have spent a lifetime working to deliver the news, there’s often a sense of loss when a newspaper shutters no matter when or where that happens. Perhaps it’s because we know that, yet another important piece of the Fourth Estate created to keep democracy alive is gone forever. We’re sad. We reminisce. And then we move on, adjusting to the digital world of online news and social media posts where everyone has his own version of the news, accurate or not.

But when a journalist among us dies, one of those amazingly skilled reporters who could make the story about a dog chasing its tail interesting, the response is overwhelming sadness and a deep sense of grief.

So it is with our friend and colleague, Jerome Wright, who died suddenly at home Monday evening. The journalism community has lost a member of the family; our city has lost a beacon of light.

Early Tuesday morning I checked my email before heading home from the gym, when an email from my friend, Tom Jones, caught my eye. The content was about Jerome. And I froze.

How could it be? Jerome. A journalist’s journalist. He spent nearly a half century at The Commercial Appeal, rising in the editorial ranks to become editorial page editor before retiring, only to have a post-retirement career as director of communications at LeMoyne-Owen College and deputy editor at The New Tri-State Defender.

Regardless of his title, Jerome was a journalist’s journalist. He was passionate about accuracy and the peoples’ right to know. Ask him about any neighborhood in town and he would know where it was located, much of its history and, of course, how to get there. Jerome was one of those dedicated colleagues whose door was always open, whose smile was infectious, who helped young reporters ‘get it right,’ and whose patience with deadlines and short-tempered reporters was something to be admired.

Jerome and I started our journalism careers the same year, probably because by birth we were only two months apart. He grew up on one side of town; I grew up on the other. When he started as a young reporter at The Commercial Appeal, I started at The Press-Scimitar. Yet, years later I drew the long straw when our careers collided at The Commercial Appeal. I was a better journalist having Jerome at my side. We all were.

Now back to the story about the dog chasing its tail. In the news business, as is true perhaps in many places, a lot of people spend countless hours chasing their tails often seeking the big story or a pot of gold that will make them happy. Jerome never chased his tail because he knew he had what made him happy. His wife, Gwen, his three daughters and his beloved profession, journalism.

Maybe that’s why he came to work every day smiling. Maybe that’s why he always had something nice to say about others. Maybe that’s why he had the patience of Job. Maybe that’s why everyone liked him and considered him a friend.      

He will be missed.