Sadness and affection, especially in the year that Computer Weekly celebrates its 50th anniversary, mark the passing this week of Jonathan Green-Armytage – a unique and charismatic character from the heyday of IT journalism.
Already in his mid-40s, engraved with life experience, Jonathan materialised on Computer Weekly in 1984. His Oxbridge-cultivated persona, distinguished bearing, and fruity, landed voice, marked him out from many in the rough and tumble of the emerging IT industry at the time.
Jonathan worked first on the features desk and then found his true calling in telecommunications, which in the 1980s lacked the glamour of the burgeoning computer industry.
Jonathan grasped early on the significance and importance of the emerging digital telecommunications and the enormous promise of the internet well before the web explosion.
He made the subject his own, earning much respect from all sides of the information technology industry. He clearly saw the digital comms opportunities for Computer Weekly, as well as publishing in general, going as far as to build internal story databases and demonstrator systems which were ahead of their time and which enabled the paper to hit the ground flying with its electronic archive.
He successfully championed early adoption of portable digital devices and had a knack of making the arcane mysteries of early online services whistle to his tune.
Jonathan was more than a journalist: he was an institution in his own right, exuding charm, knowledge and humanity making him an excellent ambassador within the industry at large. His name was a brand in itself – few could actually get his name right. Most called him Armytage-Green. We called him JGA.
An enigmatic haze surrounded his previous career although occasional snatches of colour broke through. These include his earlier skills in portrait photography, his vague business experience in New York, his involvement as a saxophonist in the music scene, some undefined links with Fleet Street, his connections - his godmother was novelist Grahame Greene's wife - and a flavour of loss and faded grandeur.
But Jonathan was not one to dwell in the past – or the future. He was very much immersed firmly in the present.
He liked to encourage a perception of genteel decadence. He founded the 5.31 Club – which repaired to the local pub every day on the dot of 5.30pm, flying in the face of emerging new yuppyish breed of workaholics. Jonathan never let drink interfere with his work – but conversely, he never let work interfere with his drink. A cigarette was never far away (a portent for his eventual lung cancer) and a cloud of smoke hovered over his desk which was always piled high with paper.
Behind that wall of paper Jonathan could appear very intimidating with a gruff exterior, especially in the morning before lunchtime. He could also stick to his guns. One memorable occasion followed a redesign when he found that his full name - Jonathan Green-Armytage - would not fit across one column. He resolutely refused to have his surname truncated but a compromise was eventually worked out.
While he could at times be infuriating and frustrating to his managers (of whom this writer was one) he was one of the most rewarding and generous people. He was always keen to share his extensive knowledge and could be relied upon to come up trumps when the chips were really down.
Above all Jonathan was an exemplary people person. He would always drop everything to provide practical and emotional support for anyone who sought his advice – from the most junior to the most senior of people. He had a high EQ (emotional quotient) and could read body language superbly. He could see through all the charades, games, agendas and ploys at all levels whether in the office or in industry. He was always more than happy to share his insights over a pint.
When a Computer Weekly journalist was left brain damaged following a serious car crash, Jonathan took him in hand and patiently worked closely with him over several months to try to help him rebuild some sort of publishing related career. And when an enterprising youngster desperate to enter journalism offered his services to the paper free of charge it was Jonathan who worked with him to help the dream come true.
It was a pleasure and a privilege knowing him and working with him. Those outside Computer Weekly may not readily have appreciated the cohesive bond Jonathan engendered within the team and also within the IT industry– a hugely valuable resource that has no place on a modern financial balance sheet.
Following organisational shake-ups in the later 1990s Jonathan saw the writing on the wall and secured a well-paid role with market research company Gartner. He was a true gentleman, and lives on in all who knew him.