Friday, March 06, 2009

JDF Jones

I have just heard the terribly sad news that journalist and author JDF Jones has passed away.

I couldn't describe him any better than the bulletin from the Financial Times does:

[He] was a towering figure in the creation of today's FT ... JDF became foreign editor of the paper in the 1960s when the FT had little coverage of international affairs. He laid the foundations of the worldwide network of correspondents that has allowed us to become such a global paper today. As managing editor in the 1970s he played a huge role in building up the FT talent pool and in the creation of the first international edition of the paper . He was also the founder editor of Weekend FT in the 1980s and Literary and Arts editor.

He was also hugely kind and generous to me, both personally and professionally, when I arrived in Johannesburg in 1982 as a young correspondent for Reuters, fearing the place somewhat and knowing nobody at all there.

Dinners at his magnificent house (which he shared with his then partner Mary and her daughter Polly) were long and liquid affairs which vastly boosted the profits of various Cape vineyards.

Journalism for JDF was meant to be as enjoyable as it was important and his running of the FT Southern African bureau was designed to further such aims.

He employed two extremely able journalists in the bureau to do all the heavy lifting stories on company results, the economy, gold prices etc while JDF concentrated on the bigger picture stories - whither apartheid, whither Swaziland, whither the region as a whole.

Most of these stories seemed to necessitate extensive travel, with beautiful Cape Town a particular favourite during the summer (shurely 'when parliament was sitting'? Ed)
We shared a memorable journey to the heart of the Botswana desert in a Land Rover with two other journalists.

In one unforgettable moment we had just sat down by some rocks to enjoy the magnificent desert sunset when heard on the BBC World Service the of death of the vile and soon to be unlamented South African ex PM BJ Vorster.

We toasted his demise with several cans of very cold Lion lager.