By Scott Schaefer & Sue Favor
It is with very heavy hearts and tears in our eyes that we report that longtime South King Media senior writer/associate publisher and veteran journalist Jack Mayne has passed away.
Mayne died peacefully at home, just a few days shy of his 85th birthday.
For the longtime Seattle-area resident and lifelong editor and journalist, investigating, writing and editing the news wasn’t just a profession – it was his life’s work.
Mayne (we refer to him by his last name as per his insistence on AP Style) grew up in San Francisco, and after a brief stint in the British Royal Navy, graduated from San Francisco State University.
He got his start in journalism at the Vancouver Province, after which he worked for the Associated Press as its New England bureau chief. Mayne was the city editor at the Arizona Republic and Seattle Post-Intelligencer, after which he became editor of the Valley Daily News in Kent, then the Journal American in Bellevue. He was also a prolific freelance international journalist who reported from South Africa, China and over 80 other countries, and even covered the 1982 colonial war over the desolate Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic. Mayne also worked for the West Seattle Herald, and wrote for South King Media from 2012 up until his passing (his final story was about the SeaTac City Council on Nov. 14, 2021).
Mayne managed several newsrooms comprised of hundreds of reporters, and was often the best-dressed man in the room, managing bustling offices that resonated with the sounds of journalists making phone calls, typing on typewriters, with the sounds of clacking wire service teletype machines in the background and of course, clouds of cigarette smoke in the air.
He also often regaled fellow workers and friends with stories about his extensive journalism experiences, including one when he was at the Seattle P.I. when he said he was shot at in an alley by a cop in downtown Seattle. He had been investigating a police fraud story and the bullet luckily missed him.
When writing for print became quaint and dated, Mayne set his sights on online journalism and joined South King Media, writing several hundred stories for our network of seven local websites over 9+ years. We’re proud and honored to say that he worked for us up until his final days.
He was an avid newshound who believed that bringing stories to the people was his purpose.
“Real news reporting still exists and I have discovered I still love writing about things that matter,” Mayne wrote on his Twitter profile.
A dapper dresser, Mayne epitomized class. Though he had a reputation as a hardnose, no-nonsense editor in the newsroom, he had a soft spot for young people. Many a time, he took young reporters under his wing, mentored them into better writers and helped them break into news reporting.
Mayne loved people, and befriended those of every age, gender, race, ethnicity and cultural background. He was fond of striking up conversations with strangers, and then telling his best friends about the interesting stories he had heard. Known for his warmth and sense of humor, Mayne made friends everywhere he went, and was a popular fixture at West 5 in West Seattle over the last decade.
On a personal note, Publisher Scott Schaefer talked to Mayne almost every weekday, discussing story ideas, council meeting schedules, and receiving advice on journalism workflow, ethics and much more.
“In addition to being a great Reporter, Jack was also a trusted, experienced journalism mentor,” Schaefer said. “He often told me that if it wasn’t for the work we provided him in his later years, he would have nothing to do – he didn’t want to just retire. He also advised me that ‘if both sides to a story hate you, you’re doing something right,’ which often came true, especially during contentious local city council elections. I will post his photo above my desk next to one of my journalism teacher Miss Mootafes, and when I need journalism advice will look to both, meditate and listen closely.”
Mayne was definitely “old school” and he wasn’t afraid to call local newsmakers and politicians directly over the telephone to get a quote, clarification or more information.
“You need not worry about my personal views of the council,” Mayne once assured a local Councilmember concerned about our coverage. “I have none and if I did would keep them to myself. My view is a bit old fashioned, perhaps, but I believe objective coverage is primary. It is my job to cover each councilmember and each council session factually and not subjectively.”
Mayne is survived by his two daughters, Andrea McEnany and Sara Mayne, and four granddaughters.
A memorial service has not yet been planned, but will likely be conducted as an online event soon – stay tuned for more information.
Below are memories and thoughts from some friends and co-workers of Mayne (if you have a statement you’d like to share, please email it to [email protected]):
“I walked into Jack Mayne’s office – and his life – on Jan. 23, 1991. He was the editor of the Valley Daily News in Kent, and I was looking for my first job as a journalist. We hit it off right away, and though he didn’t have anything available at the time, he told me to keep checking with him.
“I did. Every Wednesday on the dot, for almost five months, I called him. He joked for years after that: ‘I had to hire her! She wouldn’t leave me alone!’
“Like many men of the steely, Silent Generation, Jack could be an intimidating presence. But this sentiment never seemed to carry over to the women in the newsroom – just the men. Some men are women’s men; they get along best with, and have their strongest friendships with women. Jack was a woman’s man. He enjoyed talking to women, and was kind to all of us. We loved him.
“As a new general assignment reporter, Jack didn’t necessarily have to deal with me. But he took time out to talk to me, and to work with me. Like most young writers, I tended to use too many words in constructing my stories. Jack gave me what is today still the best writing advice I’ve ever received: ‘The story is done not when one more word couldn’t be added, but when one more word couldn’t be taken away.’
“About 10 years ago I sent him one of my stories so he could check it out, as I often did. Jack told me that the piece was outstanding, and that I had become the writer he always knew I could be, based on the talent and intelligence he saw in me when we first met. Words can’t express how much that meant to me. I can’t think of a compliment I’ve ever received that could compare to that.
“Our friendship continued past my employment with him, through job changes for both of us, through life events, through ups and downs. He guided and mentored me, and I grew all the way up. We went on trips, went to the movies, went to lunch, made each other laugh, and talked and talked. Every once in a while, after he’d helped me with something yet again, I’d ask him how I could ever repay him.
“‘Just pass it on,’ he’d answer with a smile.
“I have. Over the years I’ve mentored and loved many young people through coaching and teaching, the way he mentored and loved me. A few of these younger folks have become family to me, the way Jack was. I guess you could say that Jack and I have created a family legacy together.
“In our last conversation, on the phone, Jack was irritated at me. I kept saying over and over again, “I love you! I love you!” until he quieted down. I’m relieved that these were among my last words to him. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be done crying for a while.
“On behalf of everyone whose journey you helped make a little smoother, thank you, Jack. Your life really made a difference.”
– Sue Favor, Los Angeles
“I first met him in the early 70s when he was City Editor of the Seattle Post Intelligencer and we became friends. Our friendship resumed when I found him on Facebook and renewed our friendship, virtually at first. It developed into getting together in West Seattle at West 5 at least once a month to ‘Whine and Wine’! The pandemic changed things but we managed to keep our friendship together. He will be missed! I loved hearing about him being a young American man in the Royal Navy which you must admit is quite unusual! And his continuing relationship with folks in South Africa he met during his time spent there. He often spoke about perhaps retiring there if he ever retired! We all hurt that’s not going to happen now!”
– Peggy Maze Johnson
“Honoring Jack Mayne will be a difficult thing to do.
“Not because he was a reporter but because he was a very private person who shared things about himself with just a few people.
“He included me in that small circle though for a short period of time.
“When his very good friend Peggy Maze Johnson introduced us 4 years or so ago it was friendship at first word.
“I was, and will be ’til December 31, 2021, a city councilmember in Des Moines when we met.
“We had great discussions and he always honored the fact that I would not talk disparagingly nor specifically about Des Moines City Council or City.
“We still had great discussions about how councils and politics were functioning in general.
“He and I were on the same page about how ‘good’ news outlets like newspapers, television and now social media sites had resorted to sensationalism. Objectively reporting facts was/is almost lost. Of course we also had great disagreements! Hahaha, but in the end agreed to disagree.
“Jack loved living in West Seattle but eventually had to move – as many people had to, due to unfair rent increases.
“He moved to our city of Des Moines and his friend Peggy and I were able to see a bit more of each other over a glass of wine at our local restaurant Tuscany at Des Moines Creek.
“Jack fell ill about 2 months ago and perhaps maybe felt he would eventually be okay. I wish he had recovered because we will dearly miss our feisty yet warm friend Jack Mayne.
“Rest in peace my friend – Rest In Peace.”
– Always and warmly, Luisa Bangs
“Our gratitude for Jack’s presence in our life and business overflows. He was – and will remain – a key figure in the history of building The B-Town Blog and South King Media. He took a chance on a start-up, and brought inspiration, talent and dedication to our team. We honor his memory with love.”
– Theresa Schaefer, South King Media
“Jack Mayne was among the last of the Real Reporters. A true journalist, guided by ethics and standards. I am glad I had the opportunity to work with him at The B-Town Blog. He asked tough, but always fair, questions at our Town Meetings and Candidate Forums. I will always remember Jack Mayne.”
– Mark Neuman
“Known for his nattiness among generally fashion-impaired newspapermen, ‘Riverboat gambler’ may now be too obscure a comparison.”
– Marsha Milroy, former co-worker at the Seattle P.I.
“I first met Jack after I was elected to the SeaTac City Council. Sometimes I would write ‘human interest stories’ to the Blog about local residents and send them to Jack and he would edit my writing before posting.
“He and I would chat about ‘life and people’ and he would share about all of the places around the world he had worked in Journalism as an editor, reporter and writer. Such a long and respected Journalistic history–I loved hearing his stories! (Myself, I worked for a year in the Boeing News Bureau in the 60’s, so I was always interested in his adventures in the field.)
“I truly respected how Jack always got the facts first and wrote his Blog articles from a balanced perspective when it came to our city politics. Always the professional… Jack was the real deal and today’s young journalists could benefit from Jack’s legacy of journalistic ethics, professionalism and factual writing.
“Jack was a kind and wise man and I always enjoyed, and learned from, our friendly conversations and occasional visits. Rest in Peace, Friend. You will not be forgotten.”
– Pam Fernald, SeaTac
“I am so sorry to hear of his passing. We had a connection that went back decades. He was a good honest man who cultivated relationships to find the truth. I will contribute to thoughts of his passing. Am impacted by his passing!!”
– Brian Wilson, Burien City Manager
“Jack, My FRIEND ~
“It’s with sadness that I write this last note to you. You know I cherished our friendship, but some things don’t get articulated to friends during a friendship. The following adjectives are ones I may not have said to you but are ones I would use to tell others about you. You were:
- Fascinating – You had so many unusual stories to tell
- Rational – You viewed events and reported facts rather than opinions
- Intelligent – You were able to discern nuances when at first glance events may have appeared similar
- Egalitarian – You lived the example that all people deserve equal rights and opportunities
- Nonpartisan – You did not have a political agenda when you relayed events
- Decent – You did not use shock to achieve a 5-second sound bite
- Fair – You were able to see and articulate the multiple layers within events
- Reliable – You were a trusted source of information
- Independent – You were free from outside pressures
- Educated – You digested lessons from both your formal schooling and life
- Neutral – You did not taint the facts to support either side when reporting about conflict
- Dignified – Your professional writings were respectful and balanced
“After I listed those adjectives, Jack, I realized that their first letters spell ‘FRIEND’ twice! I was delighted because our friendship was a two-way ‘double’ friendship. I’m thankful that our paths crossed – I will miss our chats my friend.”
– Vicki Lockwood
“Jack was my friend and mentor. His experiences from around the world, wisdom, and advice always gave us plenty to talk about. He was a sounding board for my corny jokes and we always ended our talks with a laugh or two.
“We are all diminished without him and there will never be another. Very few people affected me like Jack did and we were friends the day we met. It took me a while to admit it as I am not a ‘people’ person. I have tried my best to live up to his standards in my writing and life.”
– Earl Gipson (the Cactus)
“I called Jack ‘My Perry White’ when he was my editor at the West Seattle Herald. He taught me so much about writing my little parenting column in West Seattle.
“And over the years, we became friends. In fact, he was a good friend to many.
“What an editor. What a gent.
“Miss you, Perry.”
– Lauri Hennessey