Some of the many journalists who were fortunate enough to work for, and learn from, Peter Kaplan appeared on HuffPost Live on Monday to remember the legendary former New York Observer editor, who died on Friday at 59.
Kaplan turned the Observer into a unique and highly influential outlet with a reach far beyond its relatively small subscriber base. Perhaps more importantly, he made the paper a constant breeding and training ground for young editors and reporters, many of whom would go on to leadership positions at other news organizations.
Four of those former staffers—HuffPost senior media reporter Michael Calderone, author and journalist Rebecca Traister, Capital New York editor Tom McGeveran, and New York magazine writer Joe Hagan—discussed their memories of Kaplan, whom they referred to as "brilliant" and a "genius."
Traister compared Kaplan to "Glinda the Good Witch" from the Wizard of Oz, saying that he "gives you a pair of shoes and shows you where to get on the road."
There is one memory in particular that Traister says was "totally weird and mysterious" but captured the essence of his brilliance.
"A lot of direction from Peter came from being brought into his office and sitting in dead silence, with him playing some Doris Day."
This was his strategy, Traister said, to push young writers and reporters to come up with story ideas as a way to "fill the silence."
"How extraordinary and weird and special and slightly magical and infuriating and confusing it was to be brought in as this young employee and have your boss just stare at you, for sort of silent, wordless minutes," she said.
McGeveran credited Kaplan with nearly everything that he has learned about being a journalist and editor.
"You don't have to know Peter Kaplan or even have particularly ever cared about him to have lived in his world," he said. "It doesn't matter whether you know enough to know that the person who died on Friday is that important, because we're all living in his world."
Watch the video for the full clip.