By: Ana Mantica
After a 55-year career championing print and visual journalism, well-known media figure Jim Bellows is the subject of a soon-to-be-released book and film chronicling his life so far.
Steven Latham, producer and director of the documentary “The Last Editor” (which will air on PBS during April) said Bellows exudes a zest for life that doesn’t exist in many people. “His story must be told because journalism is a cornerstone of American zeal,” Latham said.
Bellows edited the New York Herald Tribune, The Washington Star, and Los Angeles Herald Examiner — challenging America’s three greatest newspapers in those cities during the 1960s and 1970s. He also worked at the Atlanta Journal, Detroit Free Press, and Miami News. Later he held top positions in television (“Entertainment Tonight,” ABC), magazines (TV Guide), and new media (Prodigy, Excite), leaving his imprint throughout all forms of journalism.
Latham, knowing that Bellows’ memoir “The Last Editor: How I Saved The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the L.A. Times From Dullness and Complacency” (Andrews McMeel Publishing) is due in April, rushed production so both the film and the book would come out simultaneously.
The documentary, made by the producers of the award-winning PBS series “The Living Century,” includes Bellows’ opinions of today’s media environment and the newspaper industry’s future, and features writers who worked with him such as Jimmy Breslin, Tom Wolfe, and Art Buchwald. It exposes controversies that Bellows was involved in and his experiences, including the time he was drugged by the KKK. Wolfe recalls how his articles created an explosion in the literary community and Louise Lauge and Diane McLellan tell how Bellows inaugurated “The Ear,” a popular gossip column in The Washington Star.
According to Latham, it’s a wild, wide-open story that everyone can relate to. “In a way he is the last editor,” Latham said. “His type of style and personality, doesn’t exist anymore … Jim went for love of life.” Bellows currently lives in Los Angeles and at age 79 he still wants to edit another paper, Latham added.
“The Last Editor” premieres April 6th at the Museum of Television and Radio in Los Angeles. The project’s Web site, www.TheLastEditor.com, will list PBS broadcast schedules and include excerpts from Bellows’ memoir.