Farewell to Executive Editor Jim Bishop
June 18, 2009 at 1:18 a.m.
By the Advocate Editorial Board
The idea was . that you might be able to join that special few at the very top . who had the capacity to bring tears to men's eyes, the very Brotherhood of the Right Stuff itself. - Tom Wolfe
Last Friday was Executive Editor Jim Bishop's last day here at the Advocate. He retired from the journalism business after a long career working at newspapers in Houston, Colorado, Victoria and others. He was on news teams that won national awards, including a Pulitzer. And he brought home Associated Press Managing Editor awards to Victoria.
He could tell you stories about his adventures as a reporter. For example, one scary anecdote included the time he almost lost his life because of a Houston train derailment and subsequent explosion of 85,000 gallons of vinyl chloride. He wears the burn scars to this day from that episode. This is testimony to what journalists face almost on a daily basis in their line of work. But they realize this danger and deal with it because they love the work.
Jim definitely loved the work of writing. He shared his expertise with young reporters, and any who were so lucky to have his tutelage must realize how he elevated their skills in the craft of writing. To this day, he maintains a rule for good, compelling feature writing. He would repeat the rule over and over again, like a mantra, "Don't tell; show." He swore by William E. Blundell's "The Art and Craft of Feature Writing."
He insisted on self-editing with a "sharp sword." He told reporters that he understood how writing becomes extraordinarily personal, but words, phrases and passages were not immune to the sword if they could be cut from the story without hurting the narrative. This practice he equated to "killing babies" because it was emotionally, extremely hard to do. By demonstrating this to shocked reporters - reporters who were held aghast as he sliced their stories - they came to realize that the end product was by far superior and exciting to read.
"Everybody needs an editor," he once said. "Even Ernest Hemingway had an editor."
John Roberts, Advocate publisher and owner, said Jim is "a big man with just as big a heart, who loves the newspaper business. He was always eager to share his knowledge with young journalists, and I think he still gets a big kick out of seeing them develop."
Kay McHaney, Advocate secretary-treasurer and owner, said, "Jim was a great listener, connecting with people of all types and so talented in expressing what he heard. I loved it that he remembered my mother was quick to find grammatical and spelling mistakes in the paper and didn't mind sharing them with him."
Advocate Local Editor Becky Cooper said, "Jim loved to joke and have fun with his work, but when it came down to the seriousness of reporting the news, he was all business. He had a memory recall better than most people I have met and could quote lines from news stories, historical speeches, books and movies without any effort."
Advocate Photo Editor Frank Tilley said, " I enjoyed working for Jim because he was a visionary."
Continuing his efforts to promote good writing, he helped the Victoria Adult Literacy Council organize the Knowledge Bowl, a successful way to raise money for the non-profit group and an effective means to help those who want to learn how to read and write.
Endearing would describe Jim's personality. One could not help but smile and be affected by his charming and empathetic nature. His ability to spew trivial facts dazzles any who know him. His love of space and the final frontier, the shuttle program and "The Right Stuff" by Tom Wolfe hint at a progressive man who loves discovery and science. Jim is a big fan of "24," the TV series about spying and espionage that follows the adventures of main character Jack Bauer, and Jim has always been an advocate for our soldiers and veterans.
On the other hand, Jim also is a religious man and deeply believes in God. And he loves his family - especially his daughter, Gina, his son, Jim III, and late brother, John - always putting his family first above everything else; this was greatly apparent during his tenure at the Advocate.
We will miss you, Jim. You are so much a part of the Advocate, and the newspaper will not be the same without you. Farewell, our good friend and mentor. You are the epitome of a journalist - one with the right stuff.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.