I saw it on twitter first. I know, I know, it sounds trite already (or, uh, twite). It resonated, though, because our CEO worked for Jim Bellows at one time, and knew him well. I’ve heard the stories. Bellows was a truly great editor, by all accounts — even his own in his book The Last Editor. He loved what he did, and he loved the people who did it with him…whether he was working in print, TV or the Internet.
LD says Bellows was known for repeatedly asking the following: “Young man, what do you want to do with the rest of your life?” And, LD says, you would think about that question, from then on. Bellows had an impact, one that was resoundingly felt by those who worked with him. And it transcends. I was not fortunate enough to meet Jim Bellows, but LD talked about him and shared stories. And when we started down the startup path in July, LD sent me a copy of Bellows’ book. “Read this,” he said. So I did. And in reading it I got a sense of who Bellows was, and the joy with which he approached every step along the way.
I found this clip of Jim Bellows from March of 2008, almost exactly a year ago. He was at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner Almost-20th Reunion Party at the LA Press Club. To get a sense of the man, listen to the words of those who worked for him:
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Highest praise, said with great affection. What did Bellows have to say for himself? The Editor & Publisher obit includes excerpts from a 2002 interview on the PBS NewsHour:
TERENCE SMITH: What’s the future hold in this business that you’ve been in so long, in journalism? Is the answer the Internet, will newspapers still be around, will they still be on newsprint?
JIM BELLOWS: You’re going to have a newspaper that’s delivered there at your home every day, but it’s not going to be market quotes, it’s not going to be baseball statistics; it’s going to be commentary and opinion, but you’re going to be able to get that other material that you want by the computer world and everything else.
TERENCE SMITH: Jim, what worries you, if anything, about journalism today? When you look at the news business and you look at everything from newspapers to the 24-hour news channels, any cause of concern?
JIM BELLOWS: The newspapers now are too tame. And you need more people with passion who are willing to take risks and have a commitment to making a difference.
TERENCE SMITH: Too tame when you look across the country, too tame? Papers that… you see papers that ought to be more adventurous?
JIM BELLOWS: Yes, and they ought to take risks, which they’ve got to, it’s productive to be helpful to people to make a better life and make sense out of the news.
To make a better life and make sense out of the news…
I had planned to post pictures of our new office tonight, before hearing this news. I am still going to post them, because I think Jim Bellows would have enjoyed LD’s latest adventure. He would appreciate True/Slant. I can picture Bellows standing in our office, asking LD yet again what he wants to do with the rest of his life. LD would look him straight in the eye and say, with conviction, “This is it.” I imagine Bellows would mumble in response, with a glint of pride and pleasure. And he would look out the windows of our new office, see the future and nod with approval.
To Jim Bellows…for always raising hell.