Jon Senderling, retired director of news and information at the University of Texas at Dallas, died over the weekend of complications of a stroke. Jon and I worked together at the Dallas Times Herald.
Well into his 30s, Jon did a mean Elvis impersonation in bars, less of a joke and more of a sincere attempt the later in the evening it was. He was a tough, smart editor who helped lead us to dominance over The Dallas Morning News for a brief glorious moment before our handlers at The Los Angeles Times lost their balls.
Especially as an assistant city editor, he was a straight-at-‘em guy. He could smell a covered-up story in The Morning News a mile away. His motto was to shoot for the heart.
He was my boss toward the end, when The Los Angeles Times gave away the Herald away for free. The Times figured the paper was dead. The people they flipped it to were trash-haulers.
Senderling was “editor,” which meant he was boss of the editorial page. Two days into the new regime, he called me in and told me the new guys had told him he had to fire me right away as part of a deal to get the local powers-that-be to call off an advertising boycott.
He wanted me to know he had stuck up for me. He told the new guys I had just published a book about racial politics in the city and if they fired me, it might alienate black subscribers and liberal whites, who were a significant part of our circulation.
Two days later he came to me, looking very aghast. The new guys had called him back, he said. They told him he might be right: maybe they should wait to fire me. But in the meantime, they said the powers were hungry for blood. The new guys had to make a statement. So they fired Senderling.
It came at a terrible time for Jon. He wound up going back East to work for several years, leaving his family here and commuting to see them. It wasn’t a good time for him to be doing that. There were some tragic consequences with a child.
And you know, now some of these guys who don’t have memories think this stuff is a game. --Jim Schutze