The news began to trickle through the old network late Monday afternoon.
A flurry of text messages. A few messages through Facebook. A tweet here, a post here. The old newsroom from Vestal Parkway coming back together in a digital world, hearing unexpected and horribly sad news.
Charlie Jaworski, the former longtime sports editor of the Press & Sun-Bulletin in Binghamton, my old editor, had died unexpectedly.
A life lived in journalism is one that's inextricably linked to certain people. For me, one of those people was Charlie Jaworski.
Charlie hired me from Olean in 2004. He had wanted to hire me a few years earlier for a high-school beat job, but I passed on that one. Life works out funny, because two years later, he did hire me to cover Binghamton University basketball. A year later, he trusted me with the Binghamton Mets beat. He was my boss until the day I left for grad school in 2009.
Charlie was a legend in the Southern Tier. He covered Binghamton hockey back in the 1970s, in the league that provided the basis for Slap Shot. He ran the annual Press Doubles bowling tournament like a dedicated father. He knew everyone and everything. He was respected, even by the people who disagreed with him. He was the best kind of old-school newspaper guy - the one with stories for days.
He was one of the best line editors I worked with. Very quickly, I started to hear Charlie's voice in my head as I wrote and reported stories, anticipating the holes and questions he'd find in my stories and trying to answer them before filing. I may never have been a great reporter, but he made me a better one.
Oh, he could be infuriating to work with. He had his way of doing things, and woe to anyone who messed with his system. When editing a story, he had a habit of calling (either by phone or across the newsroom) every time he had a question, rather than waiting until the end of the story with a list. He could drive you mad asking questions that he could just as easily Googled himself. One of my favorite things to do, when he'd call exasperated with a question, would be to say "read to the end of the sentence, Charlie." He'd pause, see that the information he wanted was after a line break, and said "OK, bye."
He could be tough. He had high standards, and held you to them. If your work slipped, he'd call you into his office, in a hallway just off the sports department, and give you hell for it. But at the same time, if you told him you were slipping up because of a crisis at home, he would instantly switch into a compassionate person. He did his best to protect the department during the endless layoffs in 2007-2009. He cared about his guys. We invited him to our wedding, on a football Saturday, and he came.
And Charlie worked. God, did he work. I never, in five years, beat him to the office on a Saturday afternoon. I never stayed later than he did. I've never met anyone in the business with the work ethic Charlie Jaworski had.
And he worked because he cared. God, did he care. He wanted his sports section to be the best it could be. He loved talking about The Chase - those moments when you are tracking down a hot story, calling people, piecing it together, the cliche moments you've seen a thousand times in the movies. Those moments of working the phones, talking to people, finding the story, that's what we live for in this business, and Charlie embodied that.
Charlie made me a better writer, a better reporter. And because he hired me in Binghamton, he made it possible for me to meet my wife.
He was old school in the best possible way. He was a newspaper guy, but he knew the industry was going digital and did the best he could. He respected the digital side, even if he was at home in print.
If you worked hard and cared, Jaws had your back.
That loyalty, that work ethic, that caring, is what made Charlie Jaworski one of the best editors a reporter could have had.