By Nick Shchetko
When Richard Teitelbaum, an investigative financial journalist, was drafting a plan to visit his old friend and colleague John Curran on the first Saturday of August 2013, he didn’t know it was not destined to happen.
John Jude Curran, 59, a prominent business journalist and editor, passed away July 5, 2013, at his home in Weston, Conn. He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in May 2012.
Curran was born in the Bronx, New York, on Nov. 21, 1953. He graduated from Bard College in 1975, with a bachelor’s degree in languages and literature. Curran started his career at the Wall Street Transcript, but is best known for work at Fortune, the magazine he joined in 1978.
In more than a three-decade career span, Curran wrote himself and directed coverage of business, investing and finance for Mutual Funds magazine, Fortune and Time.com, to name a few.
Curran was also appearing extensively on television, as a business commentator on the “NBC News at Sunrise” television program. He left Time Inc. to join Bloomberg News in late 2010 as a senior writer for Bloomberg Markets magazine. His most recent position was news director at Bloomberg.com.
Curran excelled in coverage of international markets. He won the Overseas Press Club Award for Japan coverage, and a Time Inc. Luce Award for commissioning and publishing a story on the threat of global terrorism coming to the US, half a year before 9/11 attack.
Andy Serwer, managing editor of Fortune, who worked with Curran in 1980s and 1990s, said that “John was a very smart … and creative guy.”
“Sometimes you would think of creativity is being a great cellist … but journalist can be creative too, and he was,” Serwer said. “He would really study and find new ways to cover investing and Wall Street, and so, he was very creative that way.”
Curran realized the importance of Eugene Fama’s work on markets and asset pricing before it became a hot topic and long before 2013, when Fama became a Nobel Prize laureate. “John was sure very early on discovering the importance of this work,” Serwer said.
“A rare journalist. Great intelligence, great integrity, great wordsmith,” said Steven Mintz, financial writer and author, who remained in touch with Curran for almost two decades.
As the editor, Curran was tough and demanding, his colleagues agree.
“He was … a somewhat overbearing boss, to be frank,” said Teitelbaum, who started worked with Curran in 1989 at Fortune.
He had a “good bullshit detector,” said Serwer. “When you were trying to like coast or get by, he’d picked up on it right away and call you on it.”
John Huey, the former editor-in-chief of Time Inc., who worked with Curran in Fortune, in a comment to Bloomberg said that “John … never took the cheap route to a conclusion or a story.”
“He was famously inflexible with deadlines,” said Teitelbaum. “To the point where you’d be there at 12.30 at night and he’d say: “I need that when I come in at 7.”
Curran was “an inextricable workaholic” with “a little bit of machismo,” Teitelbaum said. He recalled that once after appendicitis operation, Curran was back in the office on the next day.
“John was driven … Sometimes people, you know, go through the motions, I wouldn’t say that ever about him,” said Serwer.
Ruchika Tulshyan, who interned at Time in the summer of 2010, said that despite she was one of the youngest interns, Curran noticed her passion for business writing and encouraged her to pitch stories.
“He would work with me tirelessly to polish my ideas,” said Tulshyan. By the end of her internship, she said that one of her business stories became the most read story of the month on Time.com.
“He gave me a chance at a time when many editors just viewed interns as rotating summer help … He continues to be the benchmark when I work with editors,” said Tulshyan.
While tough as the boss, “John the friend and father was warm, funny, emotional and fiercely loyal,” said Rik Kirkland in a comment to WestportNow. Kirkland, now with McKinsey, joined Fortune with Curran in the fall of 1978.
Teitelbaum recalls that when he was diagnosed with leukemia in 1994, Curran became supportive: “he came down with a colleague and visited me the first day there.”
“He was a brilliant, well-respected finance writer who had studied drama at Bard, favored khakis and tennis shoes, and admitted with amusement that his own finances were a mess. You just had to love him, and everybody did,” said Nancy Perry Graham, his lifelong friend and former colleague at Fortune.
“Nobody made me laugh harder than John. His ability to pinpoint the absurdities of life, with a wry, clever aside, was unequaled,” she said.
Curran is survived by his wife, Joan, and their four children: Alissa, Alexandra, Joanna, and John Richard Curran.
“If ever two people were perfect for each other, it was John and Joan,” said Graham.
Family was immensely important to Curran. “He was spending an enormous amount of time … with his siblings, his extended family. It seemed to be a really happy big Irish family,” said Teitelbaum.
In January 2013 Curran wrote in a short piece for AARP.org that his diagnosis didn’t make him unhappy: “At its core, my happiness rests on a spiritual life, a sense of purpose and — oh, yes — a sense of humor. In this life, where beauty fades, wealth wreaks more havoc than happiness and death awaits us all, if you can’t laugh about the journey’s ups and downs, you’ll fret. And who wants to worry?”
Nick Shchetko is a journalist from Belarus who has been covering technology companies in print and online media since 2001. A Muskie Fellow, Nick is working on his master’s degree in Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.