Monday, March 14, 2011

A Tribute To Marketnews' Robert Franner

I’m saddened by the loss of my editor, mentor, and friend Robert Franner who passed away Friday March 11, 2011 after his three year bout with cancer. I extend my deepest sympathies to all his friends and family.

You can read Marketnews’ excellent obituary here.

It was around five years ago that I was still a third-tier blogger, blogging away in total obscurity on CE and business issues, and I had only done a few paid columns for CE Pro’s website when I cold-called Marketnews and Robert gave me a big break, asking me to start writing feature stories and weekly columns covering the custom channel beat for Marketnews.

My writing career has snowballed from there, and I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for that, which I can only repay by trying to live up to the expectations that he set for me.

I have a mental list of people who’ve had a massive impact on my personal and professional development, and Robert is right up there at the top of the list. He was brilliant at getting my best work out of me, and wouldn’t settle for lazy words or half-hearted prose. He was a demanding editor, but his critique was honest and incredibly helpful.

Those who know him will know what an extraordinary sense of humour he had. The few times when he and I were in the same room at industry functions I can remember laughing so hard my ribs hurt.

Related to both the previous points, he had no filter, and had the most amazing way, reminiscent of Oscar Wilde of saying wildly inappropriate things that no one else would ever dare, and getting away with it because of his wit and charm. Early on in our work relationship, when he was coaching me on my writing, he exhorted that prose “should be vigorous and strong, like a donkey’s cock.” I don’t think I’d ever done a double take at a work-related email before.

Finally, his passions for technology, from computers to HiFi were infectious. As his long-time friend and colleage Gordon Brockhouse said in Robert’s obit, he communicated those passions in clear, bright terms that transported you to what he sensed and felt.

Right from my first month working in CE retail all those years ago I remember reading Marketnews, and can still remember some of Robert’s columns and stories that I most enjoyed. That made working with him years later that much more of an honour and a privilege, as I was always a big fan of his work.

Robert, you will be sorely missed. Rest in peace, my friend.

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