Farewell to Off My Trolley’s Brian Joss

Former Cape Community Newspapers news editor and Off My Trolley columnist Brian Joss died last week after a short illness. This picture was taken at his retirement party in 2012.

Veteran journalist, consumer rights advocate and former Cape Community Newspapers news editor Brian Joss passed away last week after a short illness. Friend, former colleague and ex-CCN reporter HILARY BENJAMIN reflects on Brian’s life and career.

It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to our much loved Cape Community Newspapers (CCN) Off my Trolley columnist and retired news editor, Brian Joss. He died at the Milnerton mediclinic after a short illness on Wednesday January 13.

I first met Brian 36 years ago in the Caxton Savoy, Johannesburg offices of the Rosebank and Killarney Gazette, Sandton Chronicle and other local titles where he was both the news and books editor.

He hired me to work as a writer both there and, as fate would have it, several years later in Cape Town.

He became a dear friend and colleague.

He attended Florida High School and progressed into both mainstream and community media after a stint travelling and working overseas, both on a kibbutz in Israel and across Europe.

Back in Johannesburg he developed a passion for community news which was to become a lifelong one. Not all readers realised that in his alter role as a popular motoring journalist he spent many a weekend in fabulous new vehicles of every shape and size, accompanied on trips all over the country by his wife Barbara.

He was not only a respected news editor but an all-round newspaper man, a product of hot metal and typewriters who eased into the computer age but never forgot the early years.

When Brian joined Cape Community Newspapers, he served as news editor of what grew to be a stable of 15 newspapers covering different parts of Cape Town.

Brian was an old school journalist whose dedication and meticulous approach to all that he did, especially as a consumer journalist, gave thousands of “little” people a voice and the arm to fight everything consumerist from big corporates to scam artists and rip-off merchants.

He personally investigated each of these complaints with a dogged determination. He never bragged but one knew that he took pride in every successful intervention. His work was widely recognised and over his career, he won several awards in the media industry.

In Cape Town, his weekly columns were published across all the Cape Community Newspaper titles reaching and were ardently followed.

As a friend and colleague, he was a loyal, deeply caring and most sincere person. He was always to the point, never one to flatter and had the kind of dry humour and incisive wit which could have one in fits of laughter.

Brian had a gruffness that was totally endearing to both friends and office colleagues, his bark was nearly always worse than his bite.

He could be found tapping away on his computer at all times of the day and night and glued to his desk and phone, we all knew that a pile of change on his desk was an unwritten request to supply his Coke (the drink) habit on a neverending basis. We all joked he had shares in the company.

Such was his passion for his craft that he eagerly mentored the young office cubs, whipping their words into shape and giving all his energy to those who wanted to learn.

After retirement he continued to write, review books and drive fast cars. His journalistic output was prolific with a career spanning 50 years.

Brian cared deeply for the underdog in society and would tackle sticky issues with an incisiveness and mettle that went straight to the core. He never backed down from his principles. Having battled Polio as a child, he showed compassion and empathy for those less fortunate.

He was well known in the local Jewish community and after retirement and in his private capacity wrote articles for the Jewish press.

He will be sorely missed and and is survived by his wife Barbara, his sons Michael and Saul and his three grandchildren.