Given the overwhelming number of letters and e-mails we received after the death of our colleague, business reporter John M. Higgins, we wanted to give Open Mike over again to print more of the tributes and stories by members of the business community. All the letters can be found online in their entirety atbroadcastingcable.com.
In his public life, John was as tough as they come and wasn't afraid of anything. In private, though, John was the sweetest guy in the world.
Despite being utterly irreverent, John was a serious Catholic who actually believed his religion's teachings about helping the poor and the downtrodden and the least of us. So he just did it, without wearing his deeds—or his religion—on his sleeve.
John and I met in the early 1990s, when—in typical Higgins fashion—he called me up to tell me something involving myself that I hadn't known. You don't get too many calls like that, and I wanted to meet the guy who'd made it. We became friends and somehow fell into the tradition of having lunch together at a French restaurant on July 14 to celebrate Bastille Day. I'm into that holiday because my wife is part French, and we celebrate it at home. John was into it because he knew so much about so many random things—and it involved eating and drinking.
In my religion, there's a tradition that you call anyone from whom you've learned something “rabbi.” So farewell, Rabbi Higgins. Give the seraphim and cherubim hell until they let you see the Big Guy, so you can make Him tell you what He's been up to. And you can scoop the world again.
Wall Street Editor, Newsweek
When I moved from Denver to New York to become Bear Stearns' cable/media analyst, Higgins helped me locate the apartment I rented by walking around Manhattan and providing “tips” about the various neighborhoods. A little over two years later, the day I moved out of New York to start a hedge fund in Denver, Higgins came to the rescue when the movers were late in arriving at my place and slow to pack my belongings. He came to my apartment to supervise the movers, allowing me to leave and catch an early-evening flight.
Higgins later told me that the movers didn't complete the job until nearly midnight, so he simply ordered pizza and stayed with them all evening until they were done. I was shocked, sensing that he felt not at all imposed upon. That's just how Higgins was.
EnterMedia Growth Partners
John would always inevitably asked the right question that was on everybody's mind—particularly in a public forum—that everyone else was afraid to ask. He almost always skewered the turkey in the middle of the table. If you were the recipient of that questioning, it was inevitable that it was a question that you didn't want to answer but had to. That was his great art as a reporter.
I can't think of anybody who was nicer, kinder, more caring and ultimately more humane than John. He was one of my very best friends. I miss him deeply.
Chairman/CEO, Interpublic Media
Dedicated. That word keeps coming back to me as I face the impossible task of summing up in words John Higgins. He was so dedicated to his work, to the reporter's life, to researching his story, to working his sources. He was dedicated to his passions like music, fine dining; dedicated to helping others; dedicated to his wife. And if you were lucky enough to call him friend, you had his immensely deep dedication.
Tenacity is another word that comes to mind. The “did-he-just-ask-that?” but dead-on questions, his tireless pursuit of getting the story right. The “can-you-believe-he's-writing-that?” type of pieces. Really, who else could would even think about, much less write—and nail—a cover story several years back called “Are Cable Stocks Overvalued?” for a magazine called Broadcasting & Cable?
I feel so blessed to be part of such a big and important industry, yet one that, behind the curtain, has such a small-town, hometown feel. I am blessed that this profession brought me to John Higgins, brought Higgins to all of us. It feels like we lost a childhood friend from home. The industry has lost one of its best-ever journalists. More importantly, I have lost a good friend and one of the most memorable characters in my life. The hometown just took a big hit. Look at that! I buried the lead. Higgins wouldn't approve.
I first met John when I was a young reporter in Canada in the 1980s, and looked him up when I moved to New York a few years later. I remember having a drink with him around the time of both our weddings, and behind his tough exterior, it was clear he considered himself lucky in love and much else.
John was a knowing, intelligent and competitive journalist. Perhaps best of all, he always got the joke. He could even loosen up the stiffest of corporate rituals, the quarterly earnings call; with one of his irreverent, perfect zingers, he'd let the media chieftains on the line know that he was not in any sort of thrall to be speaking with them.
The New York Times
I remember seeing Higgins, a dogged reporter, almost literally tackle Jerry Levin on the floor of an NCTA show. His PR people had been blocking access, so Higgins jumped in front to ask some typically tough questions. Levin blanched and said a few words. Shirttails flying, Higgins gave chase, shouting more questions, right up the main aisle of the show as Levin was quickly hustled off by his handlers. Quite a sight, sort of the journalistic equivalent of a Mountie: He always got his man.
Lloyd P. Trufelman
Three things Higgins taught me: Don't walk, RUN, if you need to talk to Bob Iger. Never exit an elevator before a woman. And you can be both incredibly competitive and incredibly generous at the same time.
Variety and B&C share the same New York headquarters, and I walked past that lively mess of paper, DVDs and all manner of recording devices stacked up on his desk today. Twice. It looked as if he might just be out for coffee.