John J. Curran, 59, former editor of Mutual Funds Magazine and a veteran financial journalist at Fortune, NBC, and Bloomberg, died at his home in Weston, Connecticut on Friday, July 5, 2013. He died of complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, which he had been battling for the last fourteen months, according to his family.
Curran began his journalism career at The Wall Street Transcript, but spent much of his working life at Fortune, where, as an executive editor, he ran the magazine’s investing coverage and was responsible for producing its special guides to investing and retirement. In 1998, he left Fortune to become editor of Mutual Funds Magazine, which, like Fortune, was published by Time Inc. until it closed in 2003. For 10 years, in addition to his magazine editing jobs, he was a business commentator on the NBC News at Sunrise program. Most recently, he had worked as news director at Bloomberg.com.
Reared in Catholic schools, a high school wrestler, and a protester in the 1971 march on Washington against the Vietnam War, Curran was a no-nonsense editor who viewed journalism as an old-school calling comprised, as he said, of “saints and sinners and everything in between, all working together trying to say something important about something important.”
“John was the consummate dedicated professional who never took the cheap route to a conclusion or a story,” said John Huey, a colleague and former editor-in-chief of Time Inc. “He had the toughness and mindset of a prosecutor, but to him everyone really was innocent until proven guilty. And he infused that ethic into several generations of journalists who worked for him. They didn’t always love his strictness, but they always respected him for it.”
Carol Loomis of Fortune, the longest serving employee in the history of Time Inc. and a highly awarded financial journalist, recalls of Curran: “I had the double pleasure of working with John when he was a brand-new, smart, hard-working reporter, and then seeing him rise to editing, where I particularly remember his putting a revised, improved beginning on one of my derivatives stories that might actually have encouraged somebody to read it.”
Author Bethany McLean, who, as a Fortune journalist, gained fame by first exposing the financial underpinnings of Enron as a shell game, recalled Curran’s influence at the beginnings of her career.
“I’ll never forget going to John in my very early days at Fortune and telling him that I didn’t think I should be a journalist, because I didn’t like making those tough phone calls that some stories require. He said, ‘Bethany, most of us don’t like making them. You don’t have to like it. All that matters is whether you do it or not.’ I swear, I think about that all the time in life as well as my work.”
John Jude Curran was born on November 21, 1953, to John Francis and Catherine Curran of White Plains, NY. His father was a marketing executive at Kraft Foods. He graduated from Bard College in 1975 with a degree in languages and literature, writing his thesis on Dante. But when a cousin who was a jockey visiting from Ireland invited him to visit a New York track to see Bill Shoemaker race aboard Damascus, Curran fell in love with betting on horses, which in turn led him into more numerate pursuits, namely covering the investing world. He often told colleagues that his two loves in life were gambling and good literature, and that he was blessed to be able to combine them as a financial journalist.
“John the reporter and editor was the supreme rationalist, always calculating the odds and looking for unexpected angles,” said Rik Kirkland, who joined Fortune with Curran in the fall of 1978 and later served as editor of the magazine. “His card-playing nickname was ‘Johnny Ace.’ But John the friend and father was warm, funny, emotional and fiercely loyal. The combination added up to something rare and wonderful.”
In addition to investing coverage, Curran wrote and edited on the subject of international economics, and for that he received an Overseas Press Club award in 1988 for his coverage of Japan. In 2001 he received a Time Inc. Luce Award for commissioning and publishing a story on the threat of global terrorism coming to America’s shores — six months before the 9/11 attack.
Curran is survived by his widow, Joan, and their four children: Alissa, Alexandra, Joanna, and John Richard Curran.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Saturday, July 13th at 10 a.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Church, located at 35 Norfield Road, Weston, CT 06883.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins University, 5801 Smith Avenue, McAuley Suite 110, Baltimore, MD 21209-3652 or online at http://www.alscenter.org/donate. Those wishing to leave an online condolence please visit www.hardingfuneral,com.