By Daniel Paulling, Lubbock (Texas) Avalanche-Journal
Despite retiring in August, Mike James has stayed in sports journalism.
The former Los Angeles Times sports editor takes calls from Sam Farmer and Bill Plaschke, among others, to help with stories, even when James is playing golf. It’s been difficult for the 67-year-old to leave behind the people he’s built strong relationships with.
“He will drop what he’s doing — except if he’s putting,” said Farmer, who covers the NFL for the Times. But James — who plays golf about four or five times a week — calls his former reporters back when he reaches the next fairway.
Although some people told him he’d be bored without some kind of part-time job while in retirement, he’s enjoying his time away.
“Words have been my life for 40 years,” said James, who was the Times’ sports editor since 2009 and spent two years as a freelancer and 38 years full time in journalism. “But I don’t have the words to describe how good it is.”
His decision over the summer to retire ended something of an unlikely sports journalism career. James graduated from Trinity College in 1971 with a psychology degree and with his teaching certification nearly complete. Still, he didn’t know what he wanted to do.
James said he worked in a night club in Washington, D.C. and on the ski patrol in Stowe, Vt. He soon started at the Stowe Reporter, a weekly newspaper, as, essentially, its reporting staff.
His father Ed James, who was the managing editor at Broadcasting Magazine, edited his son’s early stories with a red felt-tip pen.
“They’d look like they’d been used to sop up blood in an operating room,” Mike said.
The lessons helped him improve. Asked about his favorite moments, he mentions a 32-page special section he did with another staff member while in Stowe. James described the paper as not very ambitious at the time, but he said the experience gave him a taste of the big projects he would love being a part of throughout his career.
James became the assistant sports editor at the Hartford Courant in 1982 and moved to the Times in 1985. He went to Fox Sports from 2000 to 2002 before returning to the Times.
During their time together, Farmer would walk into James’ office and grab a putter. While the two discussed stories, Farmer practiced his putting on James’ fake green.
“He’s a tremendous editor,” Farmer said. “He was a dream boss. I had really hoped Mike would’ve stayed longer, but I also understand that this is an opportune time for him to retire.”
James’ decision came over the summer. He said work had been wearing him down and he had been thinking about retiring for about two months. He may write in 2015 for the Times — conditions of his retirement won’t let him do so in 2014 — or go into consulting.
James also plans to attend the APSE Convention in San Diego in June. He’s developed relationships with many people throughout APSE, including the Reno Gazette-Journal’s Johanna Huybers, the New York Times’ Jim Luttrell and the Boston Globe’s Joe Sullivan.
“I’ll figure it out as I go along,” James said. “I’m not going to give myself a timeframe. I’m going to wing it for a while, which I haven’t done for much of my entire life.”
Other personnel moves across the country:
—Alabama Media Group: Alabama beat writer Andrew Gribble left to become a senior writer for ClevelandBrowns.com
—Boston Herald: Hired Sean Leahy, who had been senior sports producer at BostonGlobe.com, as sports editor
—ESPN: Hired former Washington Post columnist Mike Wise to join Jason Whitlock’s ESPN project.
—Houston Chronicle: Hired Corpus Christi Caller-Times sports editor Greg Rajan as lead online sports producer
—Muncie Star Press: Sports editor Doug Zaleski accepted a buyout after 26 years with the paper
—New York Times: Sports reporter Mary Pilon’s position was been eliminated
—NOLA Media Group: Promoted Marcus Carmouche from sports manager to director of sports … moved John Roach from sports managing producer to sports manager
—Orange County Register: Michael Katz left to cover Boise State football and prep sports for the (Twin Falls, Idaho) Times-News
—Salt Lake Tribune: Hired Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin sports editor Matt Traub as assistant sports editor in charge of production
—Seattle Times: Hired Paul Barrett as assistant sports editor
—Tallahassee Democrat: Hired Safid Deen to cover Florida State
—Washington Post: Promoted Adam Kilgore from Washington Nationals beat writer to national sports reporter … promoted Chelsea Janes to Nationals beat … promoted Dan Steinberg to sports columnist.
(Daniel Paulling covers Texas Tech athletics for the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Contact him at @DanielPaulling or email@example.com.)