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Remembering Richard S. Holden

The Maynard Institute’s Editing Program for Minority Journalists – later the Editing Program, then the Multimedia Editing Program –  started with a pilot in 1979 and over three decades launched a generation of journalists, most of them journalists of color,  into the management ranks of news organizations around the country. Like many Maynard programs, it was the first of its kind. Richard S. Holden taught in the editing program for more than 25 years, volunteering weeks of his time every summer. He was a lifelong mentor to many Maynard grads.  – Evelyn Hsu

By Walter T. Middlebrook

Richard S. Holden

Richard S. Holden wore many hats in his illustrious life – all of them well.

He was an editor extraordinaire. The first memory for most participants in the Maynard Institute’s Editing Program for Minority Journalists is that he had been the YOUNGEST-ever copy desk chief for the Wall Street Journal.

Then we’d learn about his work to help create and produce the Asian Wall Street Journal from Hong Kong.

He was a teacher. I met Rich in the summer of 1982 while attending the editing program. He was one of a small group of editors from across the country who would spend one to two weeks teaching in the program at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Their mission was to mold and create copy editors and future newsroom leaders out of the small group of journalists who had competed to get this training. 


Finding the right words to describe Richard Holden is difficult. We met at the Editing Program for Minority Journalists at the University in Tucson, sponsored by the Maynard Institute, and became lifelong friends. He taught and mentored scores of editors from across the nation, some of whom later became top newspaper editors or publishers.  I will miss Rich’s humor and his dedication to producing first-class journalism.

– Frank O. Sotomayor, co-founder of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.

Rich was a mentor. The list of those he nurtured stretches from his days at the Journal to his years at the editing program. It exploded when he became director of what was then the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund and his active involvement in the American Copy Editor Society.

Rich was an advocate. He understood the need to diversify America’s newsrooms, and he pushed to the end that news coverage only gets better when organizations make a commitment to bring and keep minority journalists in the fold, and for those organizations to cover the issues in all communities.

At the Newspaper Fund, he became a voice for the young people trying to break into newsrooms. And hopefully, those young people would join in that advocacy. 

But everyone who knew of him knows those facts. What most people don’t know or didn’t appreciate about Richard S. Holden were his loves.

The man loved a good joke, especially puns. There’s the joke about the frog at the bar that he enjoyed telling. And he had that laugh — a barrel-deep baritone – that was the envy of any wanna-be broadcaster. He always bragged about having a face for radio. And when he laughed, you laughed, even if the joke made no sense.

He loved him some University of Missouri and Army football. I never could understand such dedication. But you could always expect an update on those teams during any conversation in the season. And if there was a chance to get to one of their games (Rich and his wife, Mary-Anna, were Army season-ticket holders), he was there.


Rich was one of the faculty standouts at the Maynard Institute’s Editing Program for Minority Journalists in Tucson. I’m among the many beneficiaries of his wisdom, humor and good company in that summer program — and for numerous years after. I long to share one more drink and one more convo with him.

– Abe Kwok, 1997 graduate of the Editing Program.

Math was another love. He would bring that passion to journalists who traditionally fear the subject and try to keep the issue at arm’s length. His “Afraid of Math, Take a Number” workshop was straightforward. Don’t be afraid to challenge the numbers, he urged. Make the math simple, and convert those terms through imaginable and relatable issues for the audience, he preached.

Rich had a love of the dapper. Maybe it was those stints in Southeast Asia.  (He had served in Vietnam, and he learned fashion secrets during his years at the Asian Wall Street Journal.)  The gentleman loved a finely tailored wool suit, with an even finer tie and pocket square. Oh, and the French cuffs, as I was reminded by another Maynard alum. 

But Rich took dapper to another level. Always show up dressed to the nines, he advised. You can always take things off, but the first impression is what counts – a lesson that was shared every year in Tucson.

Rich loved WrestleMania. You read that right. The man would travel across the country to see the bouts. I still remember the times he flew into Detroit for those exhibitions, and then write a commentary column for the Journal.  


Rich was one of the great champions of diversity who was passionate about changing things for the better. He was always supportive of our efforts and offered his wisdom, time and talent to mentor, advise and help many people, including me. And he had fun doing it!

– Ron Recinto, former member of the national board of the Asian American Journalists Association

And there was those vices – booze and smoking. He loved a good whiskey. And he never turned down a good stogie (apologies to the purists) to complement those cigarettes. The locations are everywhere, the stories are many. If you knew Rich, you’ve got one.

It is because of all of those things that Rich Holden was so special to this Maynard grad.

He was always bigger than life – from that first meeting. The Vietnam War background and his having been a top editor at the Wall Street Journal. He had worked in China and learned the language. He had been director of the news fund and those “Dow Jones interns” are everywhere. 

I had been a student and later would have the opportunity to sit beside him as an instructor for many years. I would bring him to my newsrooms to share his knowledge. 

Over those years — the bond began that summer of 1982 — Richard S. Holden became one of a very small group that I call “the brothers I never had.” 

He was family and I’m going to miss him. But I’ll have the memories.

There was the annual exchange of junk Christmas gifts. The Holdens were early recipients of the “Big Mouth Billy Bass” wall plaque, and gave me a “Buckmasters Deer Huntin’ ” game. (The overgrown collection of singing, dancing, chiming Christmas dolls/toys has become a staple in my home each year.)

When I moved to New York, I would take any opportunity to head out to the Holden home in New Jersey and use the opportunity to reestablish my Southern roots as we would tackle his house maintenance issues. Oh wait, it’s true. Rich, this bigger-than-life figure, was a complete klutz in the house. 


It was my pleasure to work with Rich for 22 years. He was thoughtful, generous, fun-loving, a deft editor and determined to make news industry diversity more than a numbers game. Despite recent setbacks, he was upbeat and encouraging to the end. He can rest now.

– Linda Shockley, managing director, Dow Jones News Fund.

Those visits became opportunities for me to practice the simple things – cutting the grass (Rich adored the diagonal cut of the Yankee Stadium outfield), cooking, barbecuing and throwing parties. (There was that huge hole in the stairway wall that was always there and a reminder of what can happen when you take a bad step. We never really tackled that one.)

But we did tackle carrying a six-foot sub sandwich on our shoulders one weekend through downtown Madison, much to the dismay of the local police. They apparently were tracking us to our car several blocks away. (Breaker! Breaker! We have a black and white team strolling through town with a giant sub. Stay alert!)

The consummate editor, teacher, mentor and advocate, Rich Holden never had a cross word for or about anyone.  He affected the lives of many as reflected by the memories posted on Facebook. I hope everyone gets a chance to read them. As many wrote, he made us all better.

The industry lost a giant on April 15, 2020. And I lost a close, cherished friend. 

Rest in peace, Richard S. Holden.

Walter T. Middlebrook, a 1982 graduate of the Maynard Institute’s Editing Program for Minority Journalists, was named the Foster Professor of Practice in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at The Pennsylvania State University in March 2020.  He left The Detroit News in January 2018 as an assistant managing editor after an extensive career that included stints at The New York Times, Newsday/New York Newsday, USA Today and the St. Paul Dispatch and Pioneer Press. He had been a business writer at the Pioneer Press when he came to Maynard to learn the skills of a copy editor, which led to positions as a newsroom manager.

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