R.I.P. Jim Cummins

Jim CumminsMy old colleague and friend Jim Cummins has died, and I am sad. Jim and I were part of an amazing team at WTMJ-TV in the early and mid 70s and had stayed in touch. Like my other friend who died this year, Pete Wilson, Jim was a big early influence.

I use a story about Jim whenever I speak with budding journalists. When he came to WTMJ-TV from Grand Rapids, he was that station’s top reporter. I ran the desk, and Jim didn’t like that he had to wait in the wings while all the tenured reporters at the station got all the good assignments. Hey, that’s life.

One day, he came to me and asked, “What time do you get to work?”

“7 o’clock,” I replied.

“Tell you what,” he said, “if I have a story idea for you at 7 a.m., would you consider giving me a shooter instead of waiting until you’ve set up the day?”

What AE would disagree with that?

His first piece was on a local toy company that had stopped making a certain toy, because the manufacturer couldn’t get the petroleum necessary to make the thing. The year was 1973. The first line in the piece was this: “The Birdie Ball has gone the way of the energy crisis.” It was an outstanding piece, and it wasn’t but a few weeks until Jim was our top dog reporter. Nobody was surprised when he went to NBC Nightly News.

He loved the resources of the network. I remember a call from him while covering a tornado in rural Missouri. He arrived on a chartered plane at the local landing strip known as the airport, only to discover they had no car rental place. The guy who ran the joint had an old beater, though, so Jim (er, NBC) bought it.

I loved Jim Cummins. He was an amazing storyteller, a great husband and father, and my dear old friend.

Farewell, Jim.

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