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Jim Bellows dies at 86

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by SF_Express, Mar 6, 2009.

  1. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    I never worked with him, but I knew about him from an Esquire or GQ article years ago -- pretty sure it was Esquire -- and he was my romanticized notion of everything a cool newspaper editor should be, right down to his eccentricities. And when he stopped trying to save newspapers, he was also an early pioneer in both entertainment news TV and even online with Prodigy. Here's the L.A. Times obit.


    His book isn't an impeccable read, but it certainly is of interest to those who want to know about some of the evolution of New Journalism and a writer's editor.
  2. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    I bought his book when it came out. There's also some good stuff on him in a history of the New York Herald-Tribune. He did what he had to do -- he was running newsrooms on dying newspapers and didn't have the staffing to fight the competition punch for punch as a paper of record. So he countered the other papers' substance by trying to be more fun, more creative, more outrageous. And while no doubt the newsrooms had a good time doing it, it never worked as a business. Didn't work then, doesn't work now, won't work five years from now. Sleight of hand does not trick many people for very long. Most of them pick the product that covers more shit than you do. Can you do both? Yeah. But usually the way it works is that the people who want to put on a three-ring circus aren't very concerned about whichever critters aren't in the middle ring at that particular moment.
  3. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    I dunno, Frank. Certainly, there's the evidence to support your assertion. But I'm wondering what would have happened if some of the things he believed in would have been tried at absolutely entrenched, rock-solid institutions -- not sure what qualifies as that now -- and not papers that were trying anything to save themselves while already in their dying days.

    As a very weird aside, I just noticed that his memorial service is at Westwood Presbyterian -- where my father was the choir director for years and years.
  4. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    Well, The Miami Herald could be a bit out there during its heyday, and it worked. But it worked because there were 500 people in the newsroom, and most of them worked their asses off. And The Washington Post can get a bit off-beat. But there again, better than average staffing, talent and work ethic.

    No substitute for manpower, though. It always wins. Readers can tell when corners get cut, and they ain't buying it, no matter how clever you are. A point that needs to be repeated these days.
  5. SockPuppet

    SockPuppet Active Member

    Problem is, editors and publishers don't know when corners get cut either. All they know is cut first, measure later (or never).
  6. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

  7. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    Interesting piece about what can happen when newspapers print gossip without vetting it properly:

  8. HandsomeHarley

    HandsomeHarley Well-Known Member

    Sorry to threadjack, but I've always had a problem with this headline.

    Jim Bellows isn't still in the process of dying. He died. So why do we say he dies? Once you die, you're dead. You're no longer dying. I've always hated that.

    /carry on.
  9. jlee

    jlee Well-Known Member

    Headlines are generally in present tense unless not in the active tense. Bumblefuck wins. Podunk pitcher dies. Podunk pitcher killed.
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