In our opinion: Thank you to Jed Horne

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Dan Gosch, Jed Horne, Karen Gadbois and Kevin Mercadel in Mexico

Editor’s note: Longtime Lens Opinion Editor Jed Horne is retiring this month and handing off his duties to Jessica Rosgaard, host and producer of Behind The Lens. Before he leaves, Lens staffers decided to offer our own opinions on Jed.  

Karen Gadbois, Co-founder and Director: On a hot summer day in 2008, Lens co- founder Ariella Cohen and I made a trek to Poplarville, Mississippi, to meet with Jed Horne.

We didn’t have a budget, we didn’t have an office, we didn’t even have a staffing plan, but we had a really good idea: an investigative news site.

For years my old Providence buddy Dan Gosch had encouraged me to look up his childhood friend Jed, but I was always hesitant to do so, intimidated by Jed’s credentials and his position as city editor at The Times-Picayune. What would I, a lowly post-Katrina blogger, have to say to Jed, a Pulitzer Prize winner?

But faced with the daunting task of creating a new news entity, it only seemed to make sense that we at least make the trek to his home and pick his brain. We sat and visited with Jed and his powerhouse wife, Jane, and sometime between lunch and clearing the dishes, Ariella asked Jed if he would consider becoming our editor, for what would become The Lens.

He said yes and over the last 10-plus years Jed has served as the Op-Ed editor, mentor, friend and occasional news room denizen, while splitting his time between Mexico and New Orleans.

As a reporter, you could hand Jed what seemed to be a 1000-piece thrift store jigsaw puzzle, unsure if the all of the pieces were even there. What you got back was poetry. Jed never lost his temper in the newsroom, unless aggravated by futile attempts to reach a live person while trying to clear up a cell phone billing error. Or trying to figure out the proper way to edit in Google Docs. He encouraged and cajoled instead, allowing you to produce a story that you could be proud of.

And my friend Dan was right. Jed is not just a great editor but is now a valued friend. A couple of years ago, Jed, Dan, my partner Kevin and I embarked on a trip around the lake where Jed and Jane live in Mexico. Our last stop on the journey was a restaurant bar frequented by those in the drug industry, a narco bar. The midday sun shone brightly, but inside it felt like the heaviness of Santa Muerte impregnated the place. It was Dia de Los Muertos. As candles burned and mariachis played, we perused the photos on the wall eventually making our way back to the car. Jed popped a disc into the car’s sound system and blasted the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil,” a perfect little editorial flourish to finish the day.

Jed warned us well in advance that he would be retiring from The Lens, but we always chose to ignore those memos and relied on his good will and friendship and dedication to the mission, to continue to provide The Lens and our readers with his grace, talent, wisdom and superb editing skills.

Jed wasn’t going to allow us to ignore him anymore and on Monday, coincidentally the same day dozens of Times-Picayune reporters signed off, Jed handed the editing keys to Jessica Rosgaard, our podcast host, who will take over the opinion piece editing duties for The Lens.

Thanks Jed, Hasta La Vista. See you in Mexico.

Anne Mueller, Chief Operating Officer: How lucky was I to have my business writing edited by someone truly gifted with words. He was able to read what I wrote and made it sound as good as I thought it did in my head.

Charles Maldonado, Editor: Jed has, on a number of occasions, had the unenviable task of wringing some coherence from my unedited copy. And not only did he do that, he actually tricked people into thinking I could write well.

Since Jed isn’t editing this, I’ll keep it short: The Lens has been extremely lucky to have you. When I speak to sources who have never heard of The Lens, I find that saying “Jed Horne works here” is sometimes the best shortcut to credibility. Thanks for everything, and I’m inviting myself to Mexico.

Marta Jewson, Staff Writer: Jed is a wordsmith like no one you will ever meet. He always brings a fresh eye to stories and pushes for an extra ounce of accountability. While editing one of my garbled stories last year, he asked if the agency I was writing about could have done more in said situation. I said yes. Jed made that the headline.

Jed has been a longtime ally of the city and a personal ally. He advocated for me when my neighborhood flooded with elegant words I could not muster. Thank you for that, the countless edits, and helping keep The Lens afloat.

Michael Isaac Stein, Staff Writer: Jed was the first person at The Lens I worked with, editing an op-ed I had submitted. That process is what made me desperate to work here.

He was patient when dealing with my early writing, which was, as he kindly put it, “a bit apoplectic.” And he showed me how to write without grandstanding or stepping too far outside the boundaries of my own understanding. I put far too much value into my own opinions back then, and must have been a pain in the ass to edit.

But he stuck through it. And in the end, he emailed to say, “You’re early in your career and already a damn fine journalist.”

I had just quit my job and was trying to freelance full time. I was dealing with a healthy dose of imposter syndrome, and that was the first time anyone had called me a “journalist.” It was the first time an editor had made me feel like I could really do this job. Sources familiar with the situation said I may have started crying.

I don’t know where I’d be without that process, perhaps in a different industry making more money with less anxiety. Nonetheless, I’m profoundly grateful to The Lens and Jed for encouraging a new reporter filled with self-doubt.

The opinion section is a community forum. Views expressed are not necessarily those of The Lens or its staff. Except in this case. To propose an idea for a column, contact Lens founder Karen Gadbois or Lens Opinion editor Jessica Rosgaard.

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