In a statement to the Globe after their father’s death, Jack’s daughters said, “It seems like everyone who came to know our dad cherished him. But, the thing is, he was always one step ahead—banking a person’s name in his steely memory, and with each interaction peeling away the layers of his or her story, always to reveal one constant: that every person matters.”
Henry Holtzman, a research affiliate and former head of the Media Lab’s Information Ecology group, describes Jack the same way: "I best got to know Jack through helping him with thorny tech problems. Jack asked wonderful questions that got me thinking, and often I concluded that I'd gotten the better end of the deal. For example, in helping Jack with the Silver Stringers, I got to see how the fledgling tools of citizen journalism, when used as Jack envisioned, could not only empower individuals but strengthen communities and provide resilience. I will miss Jack's kind voice, his curiosity, and his wonderful stories. He was a great friend."
Although he retired (again!) in 2008, Jack’s influence is still very much a part of the Lab’s culture—and information and communications culture everywhere. His thinking on projects such as the Daily Driscoll (a daily email containing bits of news he thought the Lab community would enjoy) anticipated Twitter, social sharing, and digital content curation, and continues to be reflected in our newsletters and social media channels.
By bridging the worlds of the newsroom and the research lab, Jack helped people without newsroom experience shape the future of news. But, as Walter Bender remembers, “Jack was a newsman at heart. He reveled in stories about the industry. He had one habit—a holdover from his time in the newsroom—that I think best characterizes this side of him: Whenever he sent an email, Jack used the subject field to write a witty and irresistible headline. One could argue it was the original clickbait, as it was impossible to resist opening his emails to see if you had successfully cracked the code.”
As Media Lab co-founder Nicholas Negroponte puts it, “Jack was both seasoned and the seasoning, bringing a lifetime of newspaper experience to the Media Lab, as well as many new ideas for digital news.” Although many of the specific projects he worked on have ended, his interest in employing digital tools to democratize the news and transform citizens into journalists has echoes in the research that continues in groups such as Civic Media, Viral Communications, and Social Machines.
Walter ended his remembrance with one of his favorite stories about Jack’s clever wordplay: “Jack was on the sports desk in the 1960s. The Yankees were in town and Roger Maris, playing right field, fell over the outfield fence while catching a would-be home run. Jack's headline the next day: Roger, Over and Out.”