A quote by a former editor hangs above The Temple News sports desk. In friendly terms, it reminds writers not to take crap from anyone.
It’s advice Jason Haslam first offered his writers while he served as this paper’s sports editor in 2004. In short, it meant, don’t let anyone or anything prevent you from obtaining the information necessary for a story.
While the quote helped define Jason’s journalism career, it also helped define his life, which ended too soon Saturday when he passed away due to complications from a brain tumor. He was 28.
Jason didn’t let any public relations representative get in the way of what he wanted to write, and he didn’t let his battle with a brain tumor prohibit him from getting what he wanted from life.
Jason was first diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in 2002. Doctors successfully removed the tumor, but it returned this summer.
John Di Carlo, the newspaper’s adviser, remembered visiting Jason in the hospital in 2002. He entered the room teary-eyed, but within a few minutes, Jason had him laughing.
Life had dealt Jason a poor hand, but Jason wasn’t one to mope. He wouldn’t let the setback prevent him from accomplishing his goals – and he didn’t. After the tumor reemerged, he continued to work as a sportswriter for the Bucks County Courier Times until late October, when he couldn’t physically handle the job.
“If I can be half as courageous and resilient and upbeat and positive with my life, then I’ll be lucky,” Di Carlo said. “That’s what he taught me more than anything else.”
And Jason did plenty of teaching, especially with his writers at The
“He gave every single person that wrote for him all the attention in the world,” Di Carlo said. “He gave them a lot of confidence and encouraged them to ask questions. He took the time to meet with every single writer.”
Three of his pupils went on to succeed him as sports editor, a testament to his tutelage.
“I remember turning in a volleyball story that wasn’t up to snuff, and I knew it wasn’t good,” said Chris Vito, a former sports editor. “Even though we were on deadline, he took the time to send it back. Deadline isn’t as important as getting it right.”
Jason had a knack at getting the information he needed for his stories. It’s that ambition that prompted Ben Watanabe, also a former sports editor, to post the quote above the sports desk.
When Jason felt a source was giving him a line, he’d start referring to the source as ‘cuz.’
It was Jason’s manner of letting his source know he wasn’t going to accept that response.
“It was kind of like Jim Rome being like, ‘bro, bro,’ but less annoying, obviously,” Watanabe said. “He’s not foolish. It was always just professionally pushy.”
It’s that pushiness that helped Jason become an editor. Former editor in chief Brian White created a position, assistant sports editor, to better utilize Jason’s talent and groom him as the next sports editor.
“He never really took BS from me or anybody else,” White said. “It was good to have someone around who’d say, ‘Hey, that doesn’t make sense,’ or ‘Why are they saying that?'”
Jason could be stern but was well-respected by his colleagues, sources and Temple’s media relations staff.
“Jason was someone who touched a lot of different people in a lot of different ways,” said Larry Dougherty, associate athletic director of Sports Media Relations. “As a journalist, he took pride in his work and cared about the people he covered. He’ll definitely be missed.”
Jason found a way to connect with everyone. He owned the ability to make even the shiest athlete open up. By the end of an interview, he could have the athlete smiling and laughing.
That strength was reflected in his writing.
“He’d take you behind the box score to show you the people behind the plays,” said Lucas Murray, a former editor in chief. “It was about people.”
And, that strength definitely appeared in his relationships with his peers.
“Jason always made me laugh,” Murray said. “He was a skinny, white kid from Abington wearing a flannel shirt, but he’d break out a rap line every once in a while or an obscure rap reference.”
Jason did more than just crack jokes. He was a motivator. He was a mediator. And, he was a calm presence in a newsroom that could become quite turbulent.
To Chris Silva, the sports editor to which Jason served as an assistant, Jason was all of the above.
“He really helped steer this ship and kept me calm,” Silva said. “My temper – I get worked up over little things. He always found a way to calm me down.
“He always called me buddy,” Silva continued. “I’ll just always remember that voice.”
John Kopp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.