We Mourn the loss of Jean Briggs (1943–2016) a coura­geous Forbes editor

Forbes - - Contents // -

Jean Briggs, one of the key peo­ple who made FORBES an edi­to­rial gi­ant in the lat­ter part of the last cen­tury, died on May 26 at age 72 af­ter a de­bil­i­tat­ing ill­ness.

Jean joined us in 1972 as a re­porter-re­searcher. Her tal­ent as a writer and her dogged­ness in dig­ging out in­for­ma­tion led to a se­ries of rapid pro­mo­tions, in­clud­ing stints in our Los An­ge­les and Wash­ing­ton, D.C. bu­reaus.

Jean also had a knack for man­age­ment, which in a few years found her tak­ing on re­spon­si­bil­ity for over­see­ing FORBES mag­a­zine’s re­porters and ad­min­is­ter­ing its edi­to­rial op­er­a­tions. She man­i­fested that rare tal­ent for both nur­tur­ing and prod­ding peo­ple, es­pe­cially crit­i­cal when edi­to­rial dead­lines loom. Writ­ers are no­to­ri­ous pro­cras­ti­na­tors.

Our founder (and my grand­fa­ther), B.C. Forbes, deeply be­lieved that the story of busi­ness is ac­tu­ally the story of the peo­ple who run busi­nesses and that num­bers are a mea­sure of what these “head knock­ers” have done; num­bers, done right, are a snap­shot of re­al­ity. En­trepreneur­ship and ef­fec­tive man­age­ment are ul­ti­mately an art, not a sci­ence.

Jean un­der­stood this, thereby elud­ing the trap that en­snares so many econ­o­mists who, ob­sessed with math­e­mat­i­cal equa­tions, come to see peo­ple as cold, ra­tio­nal be­ings and are al­ways care­fully cal­cu­lat­ing their be­hav­ior. Jean’s time at Glam­our mag­a­zine, be­fore com­ing to FORBES, cer­tainly helped her avoid that fal­lacy. Her stints there and then at busi­ness pub­lisher Pren­tice-hall, where she edited a pub­li­ca­tion on sales man­age­ment, pro­vided the per­fect “ed­u­ca­tion” for un­der­stand­ing the free-en­ter­prise spirit of FORBES.

Jean also epit­o­mized another as­pect of FORBES: skep­ti­cism and the abil­ity to look be­neath the sur­face of things. She was never one for con­ven­tional wis­dom and po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness. Three decades ago Jean was writ­ing sear­ing sto­ries that were highly du­bi­ous of ex­treme en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism. For in­stance, she boldly at­tacked the

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