Satirist P.J. O’Rourke said that "ideology, politics, and journalism, which luxuriate in failure, are impotent in the face of hope and joy."
Clearly, O’Rourke never met Eric Lundquist.
Lundquist, a pioneering tech journalist and editor who helped lead several trade publications through the heyday of the tech boom, died suddenly at age 64 on Friday, Sept. 5. While best known for his editorial roles at Ziff Davis publications including PCWeek and eWEEK, he was from 2011 through 2013 a VP and editorial analyst for United Business Media, parent company of InformationWeek.
Lundquist started his journalism career as a stringer for United Press International and went on to become a frequent commenter on tech for outlets including CNN and CBS MarketWatch. He was a Neal Award winner, author of a high-tech mystery novel, and keen observer of all things technology. He also oversaw the sometimes difficult industry shift away from print to online with plenty of hope, joy, and zest for his craft intact.
But Lundquist's many achievements throughout four decades of tech journalism tell only half his professional story, and possibly not the most important half. If you believe that any industry is defined by those who shape its narrative -- and keep its leaders honest -- Lundquist was as instrumental as anyone in how technology has changed our world. He hired, challenged, befriended, mentored, comforted, took chances on, educated, defended, and when needed, called to account many across the technology industry spectrum. And we're all better for it.
The outpouring of affection for Lundquist on Facebook, Twitter, and in conversations held after his passing reveal an unusual unanimity of sentiment in an industry better known for competitiveness and contrariness. He was universally lauded by journalists, PR reps, vendor executives, and IT professionals for the professionalism, respect, and compassion he showed to everyone he encountered.
Lundquist is best known for the nearly 16 years he spent as Editor-In-Chief of PC Week (later renamed eWEEK), which was operated by Ziff Davis Media. He joined that company in April 1992 and was named Editor-in-Chief in 1996, during the heyday of b2b tech media.
At the publication's peak, Lundquist oversaw a staff of nearly 40 editors, reporters, and eWeek Labs analysts covering the high-tech community. He wrote the popular weekly column "Up Front" and was a confidant of eWeek's popular Spencer F. Katt gossip columnist, a cartoon created by Paul Connolly that ran for 15 years. Lundquist was a supporter even when Spencer's no-holds-barred brand of commentary brought the heat down on Mr. Katt. In fact, especially then.
Under Lundquist's direction, eWEEK scored some notable firsts in the use of technology. It was among the first print publications to develop a website, which it launched before Netscape was incorporated. eWEEK was also one of the first media operations to use audio on the Web. While at Ziff Davis, Lundquist spearheaded the launches of Baseline and CIO Insight, publications that focused primarily on the perspectives and experiences of IT professionals and CIOs.
Prior to joining eWEEK, Lundquist was editor of High Tech Marketing News, which covered tech marketing worldwide, and founding editor of Electronic World News. He was also editor in chief of Electronic Buyers' News and Electronic Business. He joined International Data Group (IDG) in 2008 as director of new media products before returning to Ziff Davis Media in 2009 as VP of strategic content. A frequent public speaker and guest on mainstream media broadcasts, Lundquist was also a fixture at industry events ranging from Comdex to CeBIT.
Bill Sell, a former VP/GM of Comdex who had known Lundquist since the 1980s, is one of the many conference planners who frequently engaged Lundquist for public appearances. "He was one of the first to realize it wasn't only about the product," says Sell. "You had to think about it from the point of view of who is the end user." Sell is now director, event development at the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority. "You could catch that common denominator in every story he wrote: How will this improve, help, or benefit the CIO and his or her company," he says. "Many writers in the tech sector just want to write about the speed and performance capacity of this or that machine. He changed how we were thinking about tech in the writing and the industry. It's not just about the machine, it's about who's using it and why."
That focus put Lundquist in touch with many leading CIOs, including Michael Skaff, currently VP of technology for the Masons of California and previously CIO of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. Skaff told InformationWeek that Lundquist was one of the first members of the media to interview him when he began his career.
"He was one of my favorite people to work with in the press ever," says Skaff. "He was funny, kind, and very pointed in his questions; I've always considered him a friend. He always had ways of getting to what mattered in any subject we were talking about, but doing so in a really gentle, casual way. He really brought out the best in people in his interviews, and he sought out the best in people. He managed to pull the interesting story and the honest story out of people, and his deep understanding of the tech industry let him zero in on what truly mattered."
Kevin Baradet, now CTO and facilities director at the Johnson School at Cornell University, met Lundquist after being invited to become a member of the PC Week corporate advisory board in 1998. Thus began a long professional and personal relationship that included judging best-in-show awards at Comdex, CeBIT, and PC Expo, as well as roaming the Las Vegas strip at 3 a.m. in search of cheeseburgers. "He was an enthusiast, and he knew how to spot them and bring them along," says Baradet. "Some people are catalysts. They're not afraid to introduce people, start the reaction, step back and let it run its course."
"I would say the best thing Eric taught or advocated was to take a 10,000-foot view of the industry," says John Pallatto, current editor-in-chief of eWEEK. "Don't get tied up in the minutia, but understand what the broad trends are."
This big-picture view distinguishes Lundquist's work. "He knew every sector in IT and all the key people in them as well as anybody, and he knew how they all interconnected as well as anybody," says Chris Preimesberger, editor, features and analysis at eWEEK. "Eric saw the big picture of technology and explained it better than anybody I know. He'll be missed on many, many levels -- by folks like us who knew him personally and by thousands of IT pros who absorbed his work and profited greatly from his insight and advice."
Professional accomplishments aside, it's Lundquist's humanity that shines though in so many of the shared recollections. "I went to Ottawa with Eric to speak to a PR and marketing association," says Michael Caton, a former eWEEK Labs editor who is now a competitive analyst with Pegasystems. "I was so nervous, not having much public speaking experience at the time. He just cracked a couple of his dry jokes in that way he had and calmed me down."
Putting people at ease was a trademark for Lundquist. Scott Ferguson, a former editor-in-chief of eWEEK who now works at UBM, remembered the times Lundquist would come along on CEO interviews and how his presence added an air of gravitas.
"The CEO's people would insist that he be there for the interview, but he never took over your job," Ferguson says. "He let you ask the questions and conduct the interview while offering a thought here or there. Just having him there gave you a sense of confidence, and you'd want to do a better job since he gave his time to you."
Those who worked with Lundquist -- and that describes many in the tech sector today -- benefitted from that generous and supportive attitude. He was quick to push those he worked with to take leaps, and kind enough to offer a quiet word of warning when they were set to jump off a ledge.
"The thing that most impressed me about his life as a journalist and manager was his consideration for people he worked with," says veteran technology journalist Wayne Rash. "He was always kind, always thoughtful, and always willing to help anyone be the best that they could be. I watched him guide people through difficult times in journalism, watched him show the kind of leadership the world needs more of. He was a fierce defender of the people who worked for him."
Debra Donston-Miller, an independent writer and editor at Donston-Miller Editorial Consulting, worked with Lundquist during her tenure as editor of eWeek Labs and, later, as editor of eWeek. "The most important thing I learned from him was the importance of developing strong relationships in the workplace," says Donston-Miller. "Eric made each and every person he worked with feel special, and we all responded in kind. Through good times, and our share of bad times, he made PC Week/eWEEK feel like a family. We all supported each other and made each other better--Eric was a huge part of that. I will be forever grateful that I got to come into my 'professional own' during that time and under Eric's guidance."
Nearly everyone we spoke with for this tribute had tales of adventures they'd embarked on with Lundquist -- often in some farflung location. "The word I would use to describe Eric Lundquist is indefatigable," says Scot Petersen, editorial director, business applications and architecture, TechTarget. "Whatever he was doing, he would do it with all his energy. He was the ultimate road warrior."
Frank X. Shaw, VP of corporate communications for Microsoft, perhaps best summed up Lundquist's legacy in a blog post: "Eric was there at the very beginning of the PC era. I often think about this industry we're in. It was born and made great by the inventors and dreamers, the businesspeople and the technologists, the partners and competitors and those who told stories about what was and what could be."
Lundquist devoted much of his time since 2007 to Beyond Soccer Lawrence, a nonprofit program that has given hundreds of low-income children from Lawrence, Mass., access to health, fitness, community service, and academic resources. He was a member of the organization's board and will be sorely missed, say directors Ellen and Stephanie McArdle. "The heart of our organization is left with an unfillable hole," says Stephanie McArdle.
If Lundquist helped you out somewhere along the path, a donation to his favorite cause would be a great way to pay that forward.
He earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a Master of Science in Journalism from Boston University. He also studied business and technology at Harvard University Extension School. He was most recently technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm that he joined in February 2013.
CORRECTED SEPTMEBER 10, 2014: Lundquist is survived by his wife Sherry Lundquist; sons Adam, Alex and Jesse; daughter Kate; daughters-in-law Courtney (married to Adam) and Mary (married to Jesse); and grandson Calvin, born to Jesse and Mary earlier this year.