Obituary

Jeff Kaye, veteran media chronicler new to Current

By Steve Behrens

Jeffrey Kaye, an experienced media-industry journalist who recently joined Current as senior editor, died Feb. 11 of a heart attack in Bethesda, Md., where he and his family had recently moved. He was 57.

Kaye had finished work on his third issue of Current the night before.

He had taken a number of adventurous leaps in his life, moving from his home state of New Jersey to San Francisco before college, to Paris as a young writer, to Los Angeles, and to London, where he lived 20 years before returning to the States.

Instead of studying psychology at Berkeley as he planned, Kaye switched to journalism at San Francisco State University. He  reported for the San Jose Mercury News, wrote about gangs for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and covered the TV industry for TV Guide and the Los Angeles Times — in between, freelancing from Paris. Kaye moved to London with his first wife, Jennifer Foote; freelanced for the Los Angeles Times; and became familiar with Cannes as European editor of the Hollywood Reporter.

He met the reporter who became his second wife, Alexandra Frean, when they were in Morocco covering the making of Ted Turner’s first of dozens of planned Bible movies. Kaye moved on to edit CTW, a computer games publication; took a master’s degree in e-commerce at the University of London’s Birkbeck College, and managed content for World Online Ltd. and British Telecom Openworld during the dot-com bubble.

As he studied e-commerce, Kaye said later, his professional interests turned to the economic plight of journalism, and he co-wrote the 2010 book Funding Journalism in the Digital Age: Business Models, Strategies, Issues and Trends (Peter Lang, New York), which has been adopted as a text by colleges in a number of countries.

He earned fees consulting with media businesses, but what he really loved was teaching journalism, which he did in London and Los Angeles. “To me, that was him at his best,” said Alexandra Frean Kaye. “He was at heart a teacher.”

“Jeff had an energy and positive spirit that belied the difficult way he grew up,” said Alicia Shepard, a friend since they both worked at the paper in San Jose. “He lost his mother, whom he adored when he was young and ended up in foster homes. For some, that kind of upbringing would defeat us. Yet Jeff was one of the most upbeat, funniest, kindest men I have ever known. While I remember him as someone who could outreport and outwrite most of us, I came to know him later as the father of three who are living testaments to what a special man he was.”

In January, Kaye joined Current as a senior editor with plans to cover primarily the new media/new journalism beats.

After breakfast with his family on Saturday morning, Feb. 11, he walked to the bank, where he collapsed. In recent days, he had felt chest pains, assumed to be heartburn, so the heart attack “came out of the blue,” his wife said.

Kaye is survived by his wife, recently appointed Washington Bureau chief of the Times of London; their teenaged sons Jackson and Nathan; his daughter of his first marriage, Hannah; and his siblings Roberta Sallee, Susan May and Jennifer Kaye.

Hannah, 26, is planning to get married in April. Her father had seen Hannah in her wedding dress, Kaye’s wife said.

A funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. Eastern Wednesday, Feb.15, at the Sol Levinson & Bros. Chapel in Pikesville, Md. His family suggests that memorial donations be made to local charities working with foster children.

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