Financial journalistJames Russell

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After studying journalism at Louisiana State University, Russell served World War II in the Army Air Corps as a radio operator and gunner on a B-26. After getting home he joined the International News Service (which became United Press International), and in 1947 was promoted to Miami bureau chief. In 1957 he went to work for the Miami Herald, where he was told he would specialise in writing about business and finance. “I was stunned. I said, ‘You know, I barely know the difference between a stock and a bond.’” But the editors said he had the reporting skills to learn about it, and teach his readers as he went along. And he did, becoming the paper’s financial editor and columnist. In his last column, released on November 29, 1998, Russell showed just how much he learned when he talked about the Internet as a business sector.

“It is a rapid growth industry perhaps unrivaled in the annals of American business,” he said. “And if forecasts of its adherents are correct, what has happened so far in Internet-land is only the beginning. The best is yet to come.” But, he warned, “the mania of the moment” was similar to the Dutch tulip bulb craze of the early 1600s, “which ended in disaster.” While “some Internet enterprises undoubtably will become profitable and fiscally sound,” he suggested, that probably won’t happen “until a severe shakeout separates the strong from the weak.” In 2001, the “dotcom bubble,” as the online business sector became to be called, became the “dotcom crash” — and he told us so. Russell died July 21 at his home in Florida. He was 91.

From This is True for 21 July 2013