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Obituary: Jack Hartzman

Jack Hartzman, pictured, a Reuters editor for 36 years during an era of editorial expansion and technological change, died at home on Wednesday surrounded by family and friends. He was 81.

Cancer of the pancreas had been diagnosed in 2010 but was found to be inoperable and after chemotherapy he was adamant that he wished to die at home surrounded by his family, friends, books, films and mementos, said his wife, former features editor Vickie Barrett.

Hartzman was the twin son of Jewish immigrants to Canada from Ukraine. He grew up in Toronto and studied journalism at Ryerson University before beginning his career on the Vancouver Sun. Determined to travel, in May 1956 he joined Reuters in London where he was assigned to the Nordesk, which edited copy for Reuters’ North American subscribers. He rose to the top as a gifted sub-editor.

In the early 1970s, centralisation of English-language editing had been made possible by the introduction of Automatic Data Exchange, a pioneering computerised message storing and switching system known as ADX, and Hartzman became part of the new 24-hour World Desk as the hub of the agency’s General News Division.

His role was what became known as one of the four horsemen – the top editors who ran the desk. They were David Betts, who was given the title world service editor, and three assistant world service editors – Basil Chapman, Roger Green and Hartzman. George Short immediately dubbed them “the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”, a name that endured. As a news editor he had a gift for judging copy seemingly at a glance, then telling a sub-editor – or sending a service message – to say with a rare precision what it needed.

Hartzman retired in 1992 as assistant news editor, a title that barely reflected his influence and importance in shaping Reuters general news file for many years.


Editor’s note: This report was corrected on 22 January 2014 to make clear that centralisation of English-language editing occurred in the early 1970s, not the late 1960s. ■