Music 20

James B. Russell

1946 ~ 2022 (age 76)

Obituary

James B. “Jim” Russell -- beloved father, brother, friend and mentor -- passed peacefully on Tuesday, September 13th. Described as a visionary and one of the “founding fathers” of public radio, Jim was a legendary journalist and creative producer whose experience encompassed not just radio but newspaper, television, and digital media. Jim worked for all three public radio networks and for public television. He won every major award in broadcasting, including a national TV Emmy, 2 George Foster Peabody, 2 DuPont Columbia, 2 Ohio State, and 2 National Headliner Awards. He is featured in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in Entertainment, and Who’s Who in the West. Jim grew up in Italy, Greece, and Pakistan, where his father Seymour Russell served as a senior CIA intelligence officer. Jim’s mother Marian K. Russell was an English teacher who helped Jim fall in love with writing and journalism. Jim told his friends: “My father was a real spy. I had more than a passing acquaintance with public affairs, since my father seemed to be in the center of a good many of them including coups d’état: the U2 spy plane, the defection of Stalin’s daughter; the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Bay of Pigs. I always told Dad that he and I were both in the business of collecting intelligence, but he had an audience of two people (the President and the Director of the CIA) while as a journalist, I hoped my audience would include millions.” Jim graduated from American University in 1968 with a B.A. in Journalism. He was later selected as a Fellow in the first class of the Michigan Journalism Fellowships in the Humanities, and later completed coursework at Stanford University and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Jim started his career in Washington, DC, working for three Washington, DC-area radio stations before serving as a reporter and bureau chief for UPI Audio in Vietnam. For 18 months, he filed daily radio reports that were broadcast by hundreds of stations in the United States. His reporting took him to Cambodia when the US and South Vietnamese invaded the neighboring country. In 1971, Jim was one of the first reporters and co-anchors of NPR’s acclaimed All Things Considered, where he eventually served as Executive Producer. Jim pioneered what he called “human affairs reporting” by moving beyond facts and figures to focus on how they impacted real people. His reporting and producing style are widely credited with helping to define the sound and voice of public radio in this country. In 1978, Jim moved from public radio to television when he became the Station Director at KTCA, the PBS station in Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN. Over the course of 10 years, Jim conceived and launched a number of influential shows, including the PBS science series Newton’s Apple. In 1988, Jim returned to public radio where he invented and launched the landmark show Marketplace in Southern California, which became the most successful business news program ever aired. Jim launched other nationwide public radio hits such as Weekend America and The World, but his proudest professional accomplishment was his creation of Marketplace, praised by the Columbia Journalism Review as “the best business program on radio or television.” In addition to his own contributions, Jim launched the careers of countless colleagues. Known as one of public broadcasting’s premiere talent scouts, Jim was responsible for recruiting and hiring some of the best-known talent, including Susan Stamberg, Robert Siegel, Scott Simon, Robert Krulwich, Carl Kasell, David Brancaccio, David Brown, Noah Adams and composer B.J. Leiderman. In 2006, after developing landmark public radio and TV programs for NPR, PRI, APM and PBS, Jim struck out on his own by launching his own consulting company Jim Russell Productions. In this role, Jim consulted stations, networks and independent producers around the world, helping them invent and improve their programs. His work is featured at www.programdoctor.com. In recent years, Jim lived in Chapel Hill, NC where he enjoyed reading, writing, playing bridge, viewing independent and foreign films, and enjoying exotic foods. Jim also enjoyed spending time with his family and will be deeply missed by his three children, who describe him as a towering figure in their lives, whose constant love, support and guidance made them who they are today. Jim never lost his passion, his insatiable curiosity, his love of learning, or his commitment to giving a voice to the voiceless. He has left an incredible legacy for his survivors, who include his former wife Kathleen and three adult children, businessman Ted Russell (and wife Jana) of Pacific Palisades, CA; magazine publisher Jennifer Marie Sturgeon (and husband Jim) of San Clemente, CA; and Physician Assistant Kimberly Elaine Thomas (and husband David) of San Diego, CA, as well as six beloved grandchildren Madison, Nathan, Emma, Amelia, Samuel and Elijah; his sister TV director Katherine Russell of San Francisco, CA; brother attorney and teacher Robert Russell of Colfax, WA; and many dear friends and colleagues.  Memorial tributes can be left at Donaldson Funeral Home & Crematory, www.donaldsonfunerals.com.


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