Jim Donnelly

Read Andy Fisher’s comments (below the David Hinkley story) about working shifts with Jim Donnelly, especially two nights when the number 13 figured in the news. Andy is also quoted by Hinkley.   And, thanks to Bob Gibson for reminding us that March 28th is the anniversary of Jim’s birth.

Jim Donnelly Set Standard For All-News Radio


Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Jim Donnelly, one of the defining voices of all-news radio in New York, died Saturday night at the age of 69. Donnelly, who retired in 1992 from WCBS-AM after a 20-year career as co-anchor of the morning newscast there, had suffered from Parkinson’s disease. “Jim’s been gone from ‘CBS for 10 years and people in our newsroom today still consider him a legend,” WCBS-AM news director Steve Swenson said yesterday. “Almost anyone who was here during his years talks about him as a role model.”

Robert Vaughn, Jim Donnelly

Friends remembered him yesterday as an old-school newsman who wrote his own copy and pushed relentlessly for precision and maximum objectivity in news reporting. 

 “Jim was the consummate professional,” Andy Fisher wrote on the New York Radio Message Board. Fisher was Donnelly’s colleague in the news department at WNEW-AM from 1969 until Donnelly left for WCBS-AM in 1972. Fisher also recalled a man who was “a patriot at a time when patriotism was not fashionable” and said it was “very difficult for him to accept the changes that came over radio toward the end of his career,” when much of the medium moved toward a more informal news style.

Donnelly helped pioneer the two-anchor team in morning drive and was partners over the years with Lou Adler – who hired him from away from WNEW – Robert Vaughn and Brigitte Quinn. Harvey Nagler, former news director at WCBS-AM, suggested after Donnelly retired that the most telling mark of his professionalism was that he never became the story. For 20 years, he kept the focus on the news.

That’s something that’s not true for all news personalities today

Photo added by WNEW1130

A Note from Andy Fisher — At WNEW, before he got the morning gig, Jim worked an evening shift that started at 5 — but his first cast was not until 8.  By 8, he would have all five of his hourlies written, and would just tweak them in the unlikely event that news broke.
Jim’s conservative political bent — way out in front of the neocons, evangelicals, etc. — was legendary.  He kept an 8×10 headshot of his brother, a Philadelphia police captain, in the top drawer of his desk, and would prop it up against his telephone as he worked his shift.
On  the night that the Apollo 13 astronauts came home, we devoted the 11PM news to a montage of all the day’s events, starting with the separation of the command and service modules, through the re-entry and the nation’s (especially New York’s) reaction to it, and ending with the prayer of the chaplain on the recovery ship Iwo Jima.  Jim wrote all the newscasts and let me devote the evening to preparing the montage.  It included an exchange that did not make it into the Apollo 13 movie, and went something like this:
Mission commander Jim Lovell, getting his first look at the damaged command module from the separated re-entry vehicle:  “One whole side of that spacecraft is missin’!  All the way back from the high-gain antenna!”
Mission control:  “Well, James, if you can’t take any better care of a spacecraft than that, we might not give you another one!”
After the Giants’ first Monday-night football game, a messy game with Dallas in which there were ten turnovers, Jim encouraged me to create a montage of Marty Glickman’s play-by-plays of all those miscues.  It was hilarious.
Conservative as he was, Jim encouraged my adventures in radio production, especially in sports, which came in very handy as WNEW became more and more of a sports station over the next several years.

 Editors’ Note– Apollo 13 landed on April 17, 1970.  The  Giants lost to Dallas, 20-13 on October 11, 1971.  And here’s the fumble festival:



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