July 27, 2004 1:36 PM PDT

Journalist Karen Southwick succumbs to cancer

Karen Southwick, an award-winning journalist who authored five books, died of cancer Sunday at her home in San Francisco. She was 53.

Southwick's career spanned more than 25 years as a reporter and editor at various newspapers, magazines and online publications. Her latest book, "Everyone Else Must Fail: The Unvarnished Truth About Oracle and Larry Ellison," was released in 2003 and praised as "illuminating" by The New York Times.

Southwick was most recently an executive editor at CNET News.com, heading the technology news site's computer software coverage. She worked until almost a week before her death, at a well-organized desk surrounded by books, posters and photos. She led the staff's coverage of the long-running legal battle between Oracle and PeopleSoft, and wrote on other important topics, penning, among other things, a special report on Net-based health care company WebMD. She also helped News.com win a National Magazine Award for general excellence.

"Karen was the bravest person I knew," said News.com Editor Jeff Pelline, who knew Southwick for 20 years and worked with her at both the San Francisco Chronicle and the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., throughout the 1980s. "Despite her illness, she was energetic, upbeat, dedicated and incredibly prolific."

Pelline added: "Most people didn't know she was this sick, and she wanted it that way. Through all this, she kept telling me, 'I don't want to be treated differently.'"

Southwick was born on May 17, 1951, in San Francisco. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in communications from Brigham Young University and earned an MBA from the University of California at Berkeley. She was named one of the "legends" at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business in 1999, along with former Levi Strauss CEO Walter Haas, Vodafone chief Arun Sarin and former Secretary of the Treasury W. Michael Blumenthal.

Southwick worked as a Sunday business section editor, consumer writer and reporter at the Fort Lauderdale newspaper from 1980 to 1985. She then joined The San Francisco Chronicle as a business features editor, covering biotechnology, health care and utility companies until 1987.

In 1992, she was named executive editor of Upside, a magazine that covered the business side of technology, and four years later supervised the creation of Upside Books. "Karen was somebody we always could count on to get an interview with somebody important," such as Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos or PeopleSoft founder Dave Duffield, former Upside CEO David Bunnell said.

Southwick became executive editor of Forbes ASAP in 2000, chronicling the boom and bust of the dot-com era for the magazine.

To the amazement of her colleagues, she found time to write extensively researched books about the industry she covered, despite the rigors of her other work. In addition to her book on Oracle, Southwick published "Silicon Gold Rush"; "High Noon: The Inside Story of Scott McNealy and the Rise of Sun Microsystems"; "Kingmakers: Venture Capital and the Money Behind the Net"; and "Compassionate Capitalism: How Corporations Can Make Doing Good an Integral Part of Doing Well."

"Karen Southwick was a thoughtful and compassionate woman," said Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, who co-authored "Compassionate Capitalism" with her. "Her work at publications such as Forbes and CNET was highlighted by her outstanding books that focused on some of the greatest personalities in the computer industry, including Larry Ellison and Scott McNealy. We will miss Karen and her unending contributions to making the world a better place."

Southwick was held in equally high regard by both her peers and those she covered, often a difficult accomplishment for any journalist.

"It was a real pleasure working with her. She was a consummate professional," said Ray Lane, general partner with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and former president and chief operating officer of Oracle. "She is a real loss to journalism and was a real professional at her work."

She is survived by her husband, Alan; mother, Vinette; sisters Jenny, Becky, Amy and Nancy; and brother, Ken. A memorial service is planned for Saturday, July 31, at 11 a.m. at the Sunset Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints, 1601 22nd Ave. in San Francisco. Donations can be sent to the San Francisco SPCA online or at The San Francisco SPCA, 2500 16th St., San Francisco, Calif. 94103-4213.

9 comments

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A terrible loss
My thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and family. I know from very personal experience what it is to have someone taken from you too young. Little solace comes in these moments, but do hold on to the great memories, tell stories, rejoice in the goodness of her life.
Posted by mrogo (122 comments )
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Karen will be greatly missed
It was such a privilege to know and work with Karen over the past year. Her death came as a complete shock because she was so vital and energetic up until the end. The way she lived her last months will always be an inspiration to me.
Posted by (23 comments )
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Amazing
Read the entire article. Very impressive career, especially to find time with writing all those books! I have always enjoyed reading her articles on news.com, and read a few of her books back in the dot com days. I also was a loyal fan of upside magazine.

The most amazing thing I noticed was that she wanted donations to be made to the SPCA. I thought that was super cool of her, and clearly shows how much she loved animals. Unfortunately a lot of cancer research is being done on cats & dogs. For someone to request donations to be made to help out the furry critters just shows how much of a joyful and caring person she was.

She will be missed.


"Ancient Egyptians believed that upon death they would be asked two questions and their answers would determine whether they could continue their journey in the afterlife. The first question was, "Did you bring joy?" The second was, "Did you find joy?" "
--Leo Buscaglia
Posted by (2 comments )
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Very Sorry for the loss
For those of us who have been reading news.com since its launch (it's my browser start page for every workstation and notebook we own), some authors and editors have come to be known for their reliability, thoughtfulness, and integrity. In this era of "news spam" (is a presidential candidate's daughter sticking out her tongue front page news?), it's sad when we lose "one of the team" whose brain and heart were struck down by her biology.

It does, at least, remind us that we're all human and to take a moment to reflect on what we have NOW, and not just the things we've lost.

Christopher Simmons
pres., Neotrope
Member: PRSA, ASCAP, NWU
Posted by Neotrope (74 comments )
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thankyou Karen
thankyou Karen.
Posted by (11 comments )
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Deepest Sympathies
I didn't know Karen, nor have I read her books, but I'm so moved by the news of her passing. The world is a poorer place when we lose folks like her. My deepest sympathies to her family and friends.

I'll have to grab her books and read them now. Sincerely, MOD
Posted by (3 comments )
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A sad occasion.
This is one of the most depressing articles I've read on CNet yet. My deepest respects go out to her co-workers, her family, and her peers.
Posted by katamari (310 comments )
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Keep her memory alive.
Those of you who knew Karen much better than myself, must make sure her passion, thoughts, and energy live on. After recently loosing a friend to cancer, the most important thing to do is keep their thoughts alive and pass this on. My heart goes out to Karen't family and close friends.
Posted by (4 comments )
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The loss of Karen Southwick
I was sorry to hear of the loss of your Karen. As a nontechnical newcomer to CNET News I gravitated toward her clear, erudite columns immediately. When a writer passes away too soon it's as though we have been betrayed somehow since we still need her here to help guide us through complex issues,provoking thought and debate. She has left a valuable legacy however and I am grateful.

Mara Kennedy
Alberta, Canada
Posted by (1 comment )
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