DETROIT (WXYZ) - The passing of Jim Herrington, 84, brings to a close an important chapter in Michigan journalism.
Jim was a Hall of Fame reporter and one of the longtime pillars of WXYZ-TV Action News and Spotlight on the News. In a broadcast career that spanned more than 40 years, Jim did it all, and he did it all, darn well!
I first met Jim when I joined Action News in 1981.
As his producer on Spotlight on the News, we worked closely together from 1986 until he retired at the end of 1993. Our last conversation was on Election Day last year.
That's when he did something he would have never done publicly or privately during his working career. Candidly, he revealed to 7 Action News anchor Alicia Smith and me that he had cast his ballot for President Barack Obama, partly because he could "no longer recognize" the politics of the Republican Party he covered fairly and extensively for decades.
I think Jim's candor was his way of sending a message to a country he deeply loved.
Jim will always be remembered as a reporter's reporter. The Pennsylvania native and graduate of Northwestern University School of Journalism had a relaxed and folksy style that put all of the people he interviewed at ease.
His coverage of the 1967 Detroit civil unrest was outstanding, insightful, and courageous! His documentaries on politics and education were award-winning.
Upon his retirement, he was the dean of Michigan political reporters. He knew everyone and all of the movers and shakers knew and "trusted" Jim. From the corporate suites to the city streets, his word was his bond.
Jim also has the distinction of being the longest-serving host of Spotlight , the longest-running weekly news/public affairs program on Michigan television.
Channel 7 News Director Bill Fyffe was the first host when the show signed on the air in 1965 but for 20 years Jim politely welcomed and probed his guests. But he never lost site of who the Spotlight should be on and he never let his knowledge about a topic or his confidence as a moderator overshadow those who joined him in studio.
Jim instinctively knew when to ask a question and when he was supposed to direct traffic on the set.
He also understood that the station's "Circle 7" is bigger than all of us. He was humble and never insisted that his name be part of the Spotlight on the News marquis. He wanted the program to continue long after his remarkable tenure. Thankfully, it has.
As a journalist, Jim was fiercely competitive. He liked being first. I will always remember his simple advice to his Channel 7 colleagues at his retirement reception.
He said, "Don't worry about what the competition is doing. If you lead, they'll follow!"
As a private citizen, Jim spent his time traveling the world, tilling his vegetable garden, collecting fine art, listening to music, reading science-fiction, watching the sunset over the Florida Gulf, and spending quality time with his close-knit family and longtime companion, Carol Camiener.
There will be a Detroit memorial service for Jim Herrington on January 27 at 3:00 p.m. at Temple Kol Ami on Walnut Lake Road in West Bloomfield. It will be a wonderful opportunity for those who admired and appreciated his long service to Michigan to pay their respects.