Going to miss my colleague

It has been a tough week for those of us who work at The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

On Wednesday morning, we received the shocking news that our long-time executive editor, Jim Smith, had passed away.

Just hours before I was sitting in Jim’s office discussing both business and pleasure, including talk of his twin grandsons, which always brought a smile to his face and a bubbly enthusiasm to his demeanor.

I’ve worked for dozens of editors and publishers over the past 37 years and Jim Smith is perhaps the most memorable.

He was old school. He learned the ropes by being a police reporter.

There’s perhaps no better way to learn this business than from the ground up.

It teaches you not only the importance of accuracy, but also that you must develop relationships with those you cover, for being a newspaper person involves trust.

Like anyone else who excels at what they do, Jim had good instincts.

He knew what was a good story, and what wasn’t.

While he wasn’t from Parkersburg, it didn’t take him long to become one of us and to get involved in community affairs, both as an interested citizen who belonged to several fraternal organizations as well as a newspaper editor who wasn’t afraid to take a stand on controversial issues in the hopes of making this a better place to live.

Jim was the first to arrive at the paper each day, usually coming through the door at 7 a.m.

He wouldn’t leave until his last task was accomplished.

That usually meant the minimum of a 10-hour day. He knew being an editor meant long hours and little praise. Yet, he took pride in his work and in our product.

Jim and I didn’t always agree. I lost a lot of 1-to-1 votes since he outranked me. But more often than not, once I tried things his way, I could see that it was indeed the better way.

Jim was a good writer, not to mention one that wasn’t afraid to take a courageous and sometimes unpopular stand.

He had the courage to take on public officials, knowing in doing so he would incur their wrath as well as the wrath of their fervent supporters.

While some editors don’t grasp the impact of sports on society, Jim not only understood, but he himself loved sports, especially Ohio State University and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“Go Bucs!” he would say as he left the newspaper office when either the Buckeyes or the Buccos were playing that night.

Of course, if they lost, he might be greeted by a copy of the article about the game being taped to his office door the next morning.

Jim was more than just my boss.

He was my friend and my mentor.

Even though the newsroom remains a bustling place, it seems empty without his presence.

Contact Dave Poe at dpoe@newsandsentinel.com