Last week I received some somber news. The greatest Wikinews editor in the site’s history died suddenly at the age of 56. I knew him as Pi zero, his wiki username, but in real life, his colleagues, friends, and family knew him as John.
Per his obituary in The Harvard Press, Dr. John N. Shutt was a native son and lifelong resident of Harvard, Massachusetts, where his late father Phil served on the planning board. He enjoyed reading, playing piano, and researching the origins of language and advanced sciences. John excelled in the field of computer science in which he received his Bachelor, Master, and Doctorate degrees from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute. In his dissertation on abstraction theory, he developed the computer programming language Kernel. John’s mother, Elsie, who survives him, is one of the first women in the world to establish a computer software company, Computations Incorporated. Siblings David and Barbara, niece Hannah, and his beloved cat Pickles also survive him.
John started volunteering at Wikinews as Pi zero in January 2009. I first encountered him in July 2011 when he reviewed an article I submitted about then-Congressman Thaddeus McCotter announcing his 2012 campaign for president. Out of the thousands of articles he reviewed, he reviewed 90 I submitted. He painstakingly edited every edition of the monthly “On the campaign trail” series for the 2012, 2016, and 2020 presidential elections, saying he was pleased to do so. In what turned out to be one of the last times I communicated with him, last November, I remarked:
None of this [“On the campaign trail” series] would have been possible without you. I couldn’t imagine Wikinews without Pi zero. You truly make this place run.
I recently discovered John was one of the few people who actually reads Saturn’s Repository. I am honored. He believed in me and my ability as a writer and a citizen journalist and for that I will be forever grateful. I am glad I had the opportunity to work with and interact with John. Based on what I have read online from those who knew him, that feeling resonates through all he touched.
Rest in peace John.