It seems fitting that Tom Silvestri announced right before Thanksgiving that he was ending his distinguished career in journalism. Tom has touched the lives of so many writers, editors, photographers and others during his 37 years at the paper, including mine. I always savored his dry New York wit, his heavyweight work ethic and, most of all, his editing prowess.
I was fortunate to work for TAS, as we knew him in the newsroom, when he was the deputy managing editor in charge of business news in the 1990s. More than a quarter-century later, whenever I discuss good writing with budding authors or reporters, I recall one of Tom’s core principles of clear reporting: the use of a “traffic cop” paragraph at the top of in-depth articles that might otherwise confuse the reader.
His editing guidance ensured that long, investigative articles never lost sight of his most important constituency: the subscribers of The Times-Dispatch. In this regard, TAS followed in the tradition of other gifted American newspaper editors, from Ben Bradlee at The Washington Post to lesser-known figures such as Bill Marimow at The Philadelphia Inquirer.
It always seemed fitting to me that TAS, the son of a cop, honored his father with the term he coined to help his staff never forget the need to write with a clearly stated purpose and understandable structure.
Now that Tom is opening what he calls “the next chapters of life,” I hope he will continue to share his editing gifts with the next generation. Though the glory days of newspapers are behind us, the practical wisdom of a streetwise guy like Silvestri will never go out of print.
Editor's note: Chip Jones was a business reporter for The Times-Dispatch from 1993 to 2007.