The early 1970s brought an end to one Gazette dream: that a second generation of brothers, working together, would run the paper.
The dream ended in 1972 when Bryce S. Hume II, younger son of Gazette editor John E.N. Hume Jr. and brother of John (Jack) E.M. Hume III, died of cancer. Bryce Hume had been on the Gazette payroll for five years at that point and there’s no way of knowing what he would have accomplished in the years ahead.
Jack Hume has said, “My brother and I would follow Dad in the news end. … I was not part of the business of the business at that point.”
As was said of Gerardus and Everett Smith, Eleanor Green and Anna Hume, or David and John Hume – other siblings from the Gazette’s history – these brothers were seen as contrasting types.
“He was a people person,” Jack Hume said of Bryce. “I tend to be a lot more shy.”
But Bryce Hume’s death has created a lot of might-have-beens. Because of it, Jack Hume has come to know “the business of the business” far more intimately than he had once thought he would.
David Hume was still president at the time of his death in July 1993 at the age of 74 when an obvious successor might have allowed him to retire.
And Jack Hume was also thrust into the process of the Gazette more quickly than anticipated, since the death of his brother had a devastating effect on his father.
“My parents had a terrible time dealing with my brother’s death.” He said. “My father wasn’t particularly well then … They were starting to become frail.”
John E.N. Hume Jr. would continue as editor of the Gazette until 1980, but Jack Hume said his father’s full engagement in operations effectively ended in 1972.
Much as Eleanor’s Green’s presence created a vacuum in the top of the Gazette organizational chart, the situation in the news operation was at times unclear and would remain so far more than a decade.
In 1974, Jack Hume become management editor of the Gazette, but he still had to answer to his father, who whatever his disengagement from the daily process was still the top man – the final word on political endorsements, for example.
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There were times, even into the 1980s, when Jack Hume did not seem deeply involved in the newspaper process. Not that showing an interest was a guarantee of the elder Hume’s approval. Reviewing the changes in how the paper was made, notably the introduction of computer processes and cold type. Jack Hume recalls both his own enthusiasm and John Hume’s disdain.
“Dad thought I was wasting my time … paying attention to technology,” Jack Hume said.
Yet attention needed to be paid. Technology was just one area where newspapers including the Gazette were facing renewed demands. The Gazette still had a competitor in Albany’s Knickerbocker News, which had absorbed the old Union-Star. The Gazette would outlast the Knick, as it had other papers with Schenectady ties, but the day was coming when the market would find two major papers – the Gazette and Hearst’s operation – staring each other down.
Energy crises and newsprint shortages would place additional demands on its resources. The newspaper’s reporting staff by the late ’70s included a number of young people who had worked on other papers – and who wondered if the Gazette could not go its own way forever, succeeding even as it defied newspaper trends.
The Gazette began to face the prospect, indeed the necessity, of revision in the 1970s. The newspaper had never been without change, but the haste and the dramatic quality of what it did would begin to accelerate in the 1980s. The operators of the paper would be reminded, early in 1980, that change comes at a price. And sometimes, even then, the price was too high.