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Remembering Albany’s voice of reason

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by Lauren Mineau




Every Tuesday and Thursday morning this summer, I was greeted by one of the most brilliant minds in the Capital Region and maybe all of journalism. Jim McGrath, chief editorial writer for the Albany Times Union was passionate, boisterous but most of all, the voice of the Albany’s largest newspaper.

When I heard about Jim’s passing, I couldn’t find words. I can almost always find words and Jim is one of the reasons why.

A conversation with Jim was never easy, but it was always worth it. You’d always take away something. I’m naturally soft-spoken and between his hearing aids and his brilliant mind buzzing with ideas and perspective, I understand how my words could get lost.

Each morning he’d come into the office I was fortunate enough to share with him, armed with newspapers, a large coffee and always sported a Hemingway-style cap. On this year’s hot July days, his glasses would be foggy from outside as he’d squint at the day’s headlines.

His passion for journalism and Albany was always evident. He was fair and never went with a story until he had all the sides and time to weigh them equally. His passion was so strong, he’d often be in his “groove” and I wouldn’t hear from him for hours as he wrote.

Jim wrote about UAlbany a few times during my internship and he’d always ask me what I thought of what he had written or if his facts were correct. I was honored. On my last day, he wished me luck at the ASP and left me with a “Take care, Lauren, I’ll see you soon.”

He was genuine and always eager to teach me something new. He’d always show me the next day’s page layout and ask me what I thought. I’m not sure if it was his genuine kindness or his actual need for another person’s thoughts. I’ll never know, but I’m going to say it’s a little of both.

His contributions in the morning meetings were always spot on, I was amazed how quickly he could form an educated and non-biased perspective on an issue that was newly presented to him. But that was Jim.

He loved to discuss his travels and his experiences. Although at 21, I didn’t have much to add to the conversation but he’d always tell me I had to travel in my lifetime. He was passionate about cities and the way they were structured. He often spoke highly of Chicago and of course, Boston, home to his beloved Red Sox.

Jim was the go-to guy for answers around the office. Throughout the day, newsroom colleagues would stop in with questions and he would always give them an answer. Many would leave disgruntled because it wasn’t what they wanted to hear but they knew he was right.

Sometimes I felt I could recite the next day’s editorial verbatim after hearing Jim ponder the words out loud as he laced them together. Though the Times Union’s editorials are unsigned, one could always tell if Jim had written it, very few write the way Jim did. Jim McGrath was one-of-a-kind.and if he edited this piece, he’d immediately delete that cliche. His unique personality and candor made him impossible to forget; I never will, and I suspect the city of Albany won’t either.

As I write this, the Boston Red Sox have taken the lead in Friday’s game versus the New York Yankees. As a diehard Yanks fan, normally I would scoff at the thought of rooting for the Sox. However, tonight is different. Tonight I smile as those bearded Bostonians round the bases, for you, Jim.

I’ll miss you Jim. More importantly, Albany will miss you. But we will never forget you. Rest easy, my friend.

Jim McGrath, chief editorial writer for the Albany Times Union died Wednesday Sept. 4 while vacationing in Cape Cod with his wife, Darryl McGrath, University at Albany journalism professor.

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