Jim Thistle, Director of Broadcast Journalism, Dies at 66
Boston journalism legend remembered as great teacher and mentor for nearly three decades
Jim Thistle, director of the College of Communication’s broadcast journalism program and a professor of journalism, died Tuesday, July 29, at Beth Israel Hospital, after a yearlong battle with throat cancer. He was 66 years old.
Remembered as a Boston journalism legend and a television news pioneer, Thistle (COM’64) served as news director for all three of Boston’s major network affiliates: WBZ-TV (Channel 4), WCVB-TV (Channel 5), and WHDH-TV (Channel 7). He began his career at WBZ, moved to WCVB for eight years, and spent three years at WHDH before joining the faculty of Boston University’s College of Communication in 1980, where in addition to directing the broadcast journalism program, he also had been chair of the journalism department. Thistle was a lifelong resident of Everett, Mass.
“Jim represented all that was good in journalism education and the news industry,” says Tom Fiedler (COM’71), dean of the College of Communication. “He was a great teacher and mentor to his students during his nearly three decades as a professor teaching broadcast journalism and ultimately as the chair of that program. Boston University’s College of Communication is saddened by his passing.”
Fiedler says Thistle was “always available at any time to advise students and graduates, guiding them as they progressed in their careers. Even as he struggled with his illness, he continued to be a mentor, answering e-mails and making phone calls. He will be greatly missed by his students, colleagues, and the many alumni inspired by his love of teaching and the craft of journalism.”
Tobe Berkovitz, associate dean and an associate professor of journalism, describes Thistle as the most respected man in Boston broadcast journalism and one of the finest teachers at BU and at COM. “He was a teacher and mentor to a generation of BU students and journalists,” says Berkovitz. “He had great values and believed in the traditions that are the foundations for good journalism.”
Known as a staunch believer in hands-on learning, Thistle always made it a point to get his students out of the classroom and into the action, says Susan Walker, an associate professor of journalism at COM, who also worked with Thistle at WCVB and WHDH. “Each presidential-election year, he would take busloads of BU students up to New Hampshire to cover the primaries, just as an exercise,” she recalls.
“He was the best boss anyone could ever work for,” Walker continues. “I don’t think it’s any exaggeration to say that most broadcast journalists in Boston owe their careers to him, in one way or another. He was responsible for teaching and maintaining the highest of standards in training tomorrow’s broadcast journalists.”
“He always strived to do the best for the news and for the people who worked for him,” says Sasha Norkin, a COM associate professor of journalism, who previously worked with Thistle at WHDH. “Despite the pressures of business, he held to the highest ideals and covered the news in the best way possible. He stood for what was right, no matter what.”
The Thistle family requests that donations be made to the Jacobson-Thistle Scholarship Fund, which was created to honor Thistle and his longtime colleague at WCVB-TV, Natalie Jacobson. The fund annually provides two awards to COM students majoring in broadcast journalism. Donations can be mailed to the Jacobson-Thistle Scholarship Fund, Boston University College of Communication, 640 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 02215.
A wake has been scheduled for Thursday at the Ernest P. Caggiano & Son Funeral Home, 147 Winthrop St., Winthrop, Mass. A funeral will be held Friday at 11 a.m. at the Immaculate Conception Church, 489 Broadway, Everett.
Vicky Waltz can be reached at email@example.com Comments