Newsman leaves a void for those who knew him

Local media lost a member of its own Tuesday with the sudden death of Jim Smith, executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

Smith-as many good newsmen and women might do-had written his own obituary, which we’ll let stand on its own. But we thought it fitting to also give him this space and to pass on to his family and friends our deepest sympathies.

The Parkersburg News is the sister paper to The Marietta Times and the staff members often work closely together, particularly in the two newsrooms. Several current members of The Marietta Times news staff have also worked for Jim, starting their newspaper careers with him.

As staff in Marietta passed around stories of Jim Smith after hearing the news of his death, the tales were met with laugher, a shaking of one’s head in disbelief, or both.

Jim was sarcastic, could be cutting and was certainly not afraid to yell. And as long as you weren’t the one he was yelling at that day, he was entertaining as hell.

He knew how tough he was and would never apologize for it.

But for most of us, he made us chuckle much more than he made us shake with terror. His wit was biting but so clever and often coincided with a twinkle in his eye.

Jim had stories from back in the “good old days” of reporting, including one harrowing tale where law enforcement officials let him help pull the body of a suspected drug dealer from the river only to have the decomposed arm pop right off when he tried.

They were trying to initiate him or scare him off, he said, but they didn’t.

He remained passionate about newspapers until the end. He sometimes kept a count of days until he retired, although no one was ever sure he really would.

He would scream, he would get red in the face but behind that intensity was devotion to the industry, to the newspaper and to his position there.

It’s strange to think of the Parkersburg office without his presence and for those who worked with him daily, it must seem very quiet.

So let’s all throw out a caustic quip today in his honor. It won’t be as good as Jim’s, but give us another few years in the newsroom to get there.