Jim Bellows, influential editor of papers including the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner who later worked in television, died of Alzheimer’s disease March 6 in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 86.
Starting in the 1960s, Bellows was editor of the New York Herald Tribune, the Washington Star and the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner. Although each paper eventually closed due to financial pressures, he was able to transform them during their last years with quality writing and reporting, giving each city a spirit of competition. He was also associate editor of the Los Angeles Times from 1967-74.
In his 2002 memoir, “The Last Editor: How I Saved the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times from Dullness and Complacency,” he wrote, “I am never happier than when someone hands me a newspaper that is either not very good or in deep financial trouble.” The book was also made into a PBS documentary. Famous for his mumbling prounouncements, he managed to inspire writers even when they couldn’t quite understand him.
Among the writers he championed were New Journalism icon Tom Wolfe, Jimmy Breslin, Dick Schaap, Judith Crist, Richard Reeves, Gail Sheehy and Maureen Dowd.
After working on eight newspapers, he began another career in television. He was executive producer and managing editor of “Entertainment Tonight” in its initial years from 1981-83, helping to jump start the fledgling show, which is still on the air. He then worked at ABC News and “World News Tonight” before trying yet another medium, working for Internet companies such as Prodigy and Excite.
Born in Ohio, Bellows graduated from Kenyon College and served in the U.S. Navy during WWII. He started as a reporter for the Columbus Ledger in Georgia.
Services will be held at 1 p.m. March 13 at Westwood Presbyterian Church, 10822 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. Donations may be sent to South Kent School, 40 Bull’s Bridge Road, South Kent, CT 06785.