In fond memory of Gloria Scoby
Long before LinkedIn taught us how to network digitally, I learned the old-school way from one of the best to ever practice the art, my friend and mentor, Gloria Scoby.
As a cub reporter in my hometown of Chicago, I learned so much about how to be a good journalist from the best saleswoman and media executive I've ever known. There was a joy to how Gloria networked, holding dear those she enjoyed, holding her nose with those she endured. As the publisher of Crain's Chicago Business, Gloria was everywhere. I don't know if she used the expression 'Go-show-blow,' but she taught me the technique of showing up on time for an evening work event—and then leaving just as soon as she connected with the people she'd come to see. I remember having breakfast in the ground-floor restaurant of a hotel near the old Chicago Water Tower. Bundled up against the Chicago winter on her walk to work, Gloria would push forward her sunglasses so she could peer into the window to see who my breakfast companion was. She wanted to know who I was talking to: for the information it conveyed, so she could proudly monitor my development, and for the sheer fun of it.
Gloria took me under her wing from the moment I arrived at Crain's at the tender age of 25. I remember sitting in two comfy chairs by the elevator in the old Crain Communications building on Rush Street, the two of us schmoozing about work and life, just away from the newsroom. Gloria was interested in me as a person and as a professional. She cared about my life and my career. She told me more than I once that I needed at all times to have a five-year plan for my career. I told her more than once I had no intention of doing so. In my mind's eye I can see her ever so gently rolling her eyes in response, but with a loving smile that said, 'I've given you my advice; I trust you to do with it what you will.' Gloria made no effort to stop me when I left Crain's, twice, first for a year-long fellowship in Japan and then to cover Silicon Valley. She knew I needed to spread my wings beyond our beloved Chicago--she would soon spread hers too, to New York--and she gave me her unreserved blessing.
Gloria was a sales executive who preached one of the most important tenets of the media industry: that the product is journalism, without which the sales side would have nothing to sell. I vividly recall Gloria standing up in front of a packed ballroom meeting of the Economic Club of Chicago, telling an audience of Chicago business grandees, overwhelmingly men, that for every ad Crain's lost because an advertiser was pissed off with our coverage we would gain five from other advertisers who knew that the integrity of our journalism meant everyone in the Chicago business community read our publication. Imagine that: a sales leader telling businesspeople that tough coverage of their companies was good for business. It made a huge impression on me as a young journalist, and I carried that lesson with me countless times in my interactions with my sales counterparts when I became an editorial leader. Gloria understood that the media industry is a tough one, in good times and bad. But she loved it. And she loved defending good journalism. I read in her obituary that she had been a journalist early in her career. I hadn't known that, but it didn't surprise me. If she hadn't been leading the business side of the publication, she could have run circles around the rest of us as a reporter.
I last saw Gloria a few years ago in Palm Springs, where she and her husband, Michael, had retired. She took me to lunch at her country club where, no surprise, she knew everyone. It took me a beat to get used to seeing Gloria retired. But I realized she had embraced this phase of her life as happily and zealously as she had her frenetic career. She was a fierce and loving mama bear for her daughter, Julie, whom she spoke of with such pride, and a devoted wife to Michael. She remained interested in my life, and I so enjoyed laughing and gossiping with Gloria, just like old times. Until yesterday, I did not know Gloria was ill, and I'm not surprised she kept it quiet. No pity parties for Gloria Scoby, one of the most powerful, energetic, charismatic individuals I've ever known. I wish I had had the opportunity to say goodbye, but I am so blessed to have been known this wonderful woman, who touched me deeply and helped make me the person and the journalist I am today.
May the memory of Gloria Scoby be a blessing.