With his encyclopedic command of movies, acerbic wit, demanding standards as a journalist, fierce desire for privacy and a worldview widely interpreted as misanthropic, epitomized by a Twitter bio that said he "prefers cats to people," Stone for many seemed intimidating and hard to know. Even those who considered him a dear friend and colleague found building those relationships took a long time, but once you were in his inner circle, they said, they cherished him, and the feeling was reciprocated.
"I don't want to say he was completely cynical, but he knew the truth of the world, and that was the filter he used to look at it," said Erin Pihlaja, a marketing and communications consultant in Troy who worked with Stone for two years at Metroland, where he was her editor and mentor. Although they remained in contact after she left the paper, meeting regularly for coffee and conversation, Stone didn't share his cell number with her until eight or nine years into their friendship, even then cautioning her to communicate almost exclusively via email and not send "frivolous texts," she said.
"I loved having him in the studio to talk about movies and the arts," said Joe Donahue, host of WAMC's morning program "The Roundtable." As the show's cultural correspondent, Stone appeared weekly for more than 15 years for extended discussions of entertainment offerings throughout the radio station's broad listening area. Said Donahue "He was always snarky and sardonic and cynical — but without any malice, which is what Shawn really did so beautifully."
Listeners generally appreciated Stone's contributions, which during one segment might range from the Albany Symphony playing Brahms to a rhapsody about the Three Stooges.
"He was conversationally brilliant," Donahue said.
The occasional criticism usually was based on Stone's effect on his host.
"Shawn had the ability to really make me laugh," said Donahue. "That was some of the feedback we got from listeners, that when he was on, it turned into a gigglefest from me."
Born and raised in the tiny Finger Lakes town of Urbana and educated at SUNY-Fredonia, Stone had moved Albany by 1991. That year, he was quoted in a Times Union story complaining about the inconvenience of the pennies involved in postal transactions after the price of a first-class stamp rose from 25 cents to 29 cents. ("He was a great one for sending letters," said Donahue.) Stone wrote for the former alternative weekly The Source, contributed about a dozen concert reviews to the Times Union during 1998, wrote freelance film reviews for Metroland starting at the turn of this century and around 2002 became a Metroland staff member, quickly rising to arts editor.
"He was an excellent film critic, and he brought such thoroughness to every task he was asked to manage," said Stephen Leon, who was Metroland's owner and editor from 1995 until it went out of business in 2015.
Leon said he often saw Stone in the office on weekends, a demonstration of his commitment to his craft and sense of professional pride.
"He'd be there, plugging away, because he really cared that we got it right," Leon said, adding, "He really felt that what we were doing — putting out information that was useful to and desired by the community — was really important."
Said Pihlaja, "He was the glue that kept that whole place together, that made sure it came out each week."
Never a car owner, Stone was a CDTA devotee, which required scheduling prowess for someone whose job was to cover the arts.aside">