As MSNBC.com marked its 10th anniversary on Saturday, it also lost its operations manager, Dick Cullom, who had been with the company since launch.
Cullom, 55, whose love of technology propelled him from a career in journalism into a behind-the-scenes role as the person directly responsible for keeping the Web site running, died of complications following heart transplant surgery.
Born on May 9, 1951, in Columbus, Ohio, Cullom grew up in Michigan City, Ind., the son of a business executive who retired early to become a commercial art dealer.
After graduating from Elmhurst College in Illinois in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in communications, he briefly worked as a disc jockey in Grand Rapids, Mich., before moving to WISE-AM in Asheville, N.C. There, after serving as an all-night DJ for a year, he was named the station’s news director and, later, its general manager.
He got the biggest scoop of his journalistic career early in 1973 when he was first to report that Sen. Sam Ervin, D-N.C., would propose forming a committee to investigate the Watergate scandal, according to his sister Carroll Barkow.
Though his news duties kept him busy, he also found time to team up with his former wife, Judy, for a morning drive-time top 40 broadcast, “The Dick & Judy Show.”
Growing weary of the radio business, Cullom heeded the call of his growing interest in technology in 1992 by going to work for Microsoft, working as a technical support representative at a North Carolina call center.
He later moved to company headquarters in Redmond, Wash.
With the birth of MSN News in 1995, Cullom found a perfect way to marry his new interest with his formal training by joining the staff of the fledgling news operation as a swing news editor.
In 1999, he took on the responsibility of managing the news production operation for what had become MSNBC.com. In the years that followed, he served as West Coast operations manager and operations manager, a post he held from 2001 until his death.
While his work kept him very busy, Cullom still found time when the weather was good to indulge in one of his greatest joys: Driving his yellow Mazda Miata convertible with the top down while listening to Van Morrison.
MSNBC.com President Charlie Tillinghast said that Cullom was instrumental in shaping the Web site.
“Dick Cullom personified MSNBC.com,” he said. “At home in both the world of technology and journalism, his commitment to creating a new medium shaped the culture of MSNBC.com throughout its decade of existence. Dick will be greatly missed.”
Cullom is survived by his daughters, Jennifer and Kelly Cullom, and his sisters, Carroll Barkow and Susan Richardson.
A memorial service for Cullom will be held Wednesday on the Microsoft campus.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the ARDS Support Center Inc., 7172 Regional Street, #278, Dublin, CA 94568-2324.