In my final year at the Daily Herald, I spearheaded a company initiative to introduce new voices to the newspaper, soliciting and editing the stories of people who had never written for a newspaper. Here is what some of them said about working with me:
Mary Abbott, school social worker, on the challenges facing today’s students:
"Jim approached me, and requested I consider writing a Straight from the Source piece for the newspaper he was employed with. I was flattered and nervous at the same time. Having never written anything for publishing purposes, I told him I was unsure of my ability to write something of quality! He was very encouraging and thoughtful with me. He said he would help me every step of the way and to just speak from my heart. I agreed to give it a shot, and Jim was so kind and helpful as I worked though my piece and submitted my drafts. One thing that really stood out to me was how timely he would respond to my emails, really making me feel valued. In addition, he was so complimentary and supportive that it made me want to really produce something good. It was a pleasure to have his guidance and attention for my first experience of writing a newspaper article!"
Tim Ballinger, a black driver, wrote about his late-night encounter with suburban police:
"I met Jim while he was with the Daily Herald. I had a Facebook Post about a Positive Experience while getting pulled over by the Hoffman Estates Police Department on a late Saturday night. I had been contacted by four News agencies at the time, but it was Jim that stood out more! He met with me and helped me through the writing process so my story became front page News! Thanks to Jim, I was a Celebrity for a few Weeks! I followed his reports after that until he retired. I met a New Friend that day and we continue to be friends even now."
Kathleen Larimer, mother of mass shooting victim, on media coverage of such tragedies:
"I found Jim to be a very easy person to work with. When he first contacted me to write an essay for his newspaper, I wanted to decline because writing can be a chore for me. I wrote it because it was a topic I feel passionate about. Jim offered encouragement and just the right amount of editing so that what I wrote, stayed what I wrote. I would recommend Jim for any one in need of his skills."
"Jim Davis was great to work with. He reached out to me and asked if I could write about my fundraising for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. His help in the telling of my story to so many through the Daily Herald helped in my fundraising efforts and connected me to people who are currently living with this cancer and even a few friends of my father, who died from the disease and was my inspiration. Jim was enjoyable to work with and made me feel like I was a good news story as opposed to so many news stories today that leave many feeling down. I was happy to have the opportunity to work with him!"
Charlie Zielinski, transgender student, wrote on the challenges of coming out:
"Through his help, I was able to get my story heard and shared. Jim Davis was very open to working with me and was able to adjust to my schedule by providing deadlines that were easy to meet. Jim was also able to strengthen and solidify my work through his editing. He was great to work with and I would work with him again if the opportunity ever arises!"
These people are among my most-respected peers and the many talented and successful reporters I supervised.
Elena Ferrarin, senior staff writer, Daily Herald
"Journalism requires explaining complex concepts in simple terms. You can't be verbose or use overly technical jargon, and you do your best to keep people engaged and interested with snappy, concise writing. If there's one person who taught me how to do that, it's Jim Davis."
Ted Gregory, former reporter, Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald
"I worked with Jim Davis for years and found him to be a diligent, perceptive, smart, personable and efficient editor and writer. He was constructive in his criticism, able to handle multiple tasks at the same time and deliver clean copy on deadline. A prose pro, if you will."
Christy Gutowski, reporter, Chicago Tribune
"For more than a decade, I sat directly outside Jim Davis's office at the Daily Herald with a front-row seat to all the mayhem and madness that a newsroom editor faces running a daily newspaper. The conversation almost always began with his visitor asking, 'Got a minute, Jim?' I can't recall a single time he turned a colleague away. Often times it was a defeated writer who needed help with a lead or, in my case, the dreaded 'nut graph.' He dealt with it all with confidence, compassion and his trademark good sense of humor. He challenged so many of us who were lucky enough to work for him to be fair, accurate and first. There's that famous quote about how, at the end of the day, people won't remember what you said or did, but how you made them feel. Well, with Jim, I for one always felt valued, safe and grateful."
Madhu Krishnamurthy, senior staff writer, Daily Herald
"As my editor for several years, Jim helped me hone my creative skills to always look for meaningful and conversational ways to tell stories that engage readers. His warm personality fostered a collegial environment of mutual respect, trust and understanding in the newsroom. He was a good mentor and always accommodating and nurturing as a supervisor."
Jim Slusher, deputy managing editor for opinion, Daily Herald
"Jim Davis and I worked together as senior editors in the Daily Herald newsroom for 28 years. As manager of the paper’s DuPage County bureau, he established an atmosphere of creativity, camaraderie and professionalism in which his reporters and editors produced work of the highest quality. He always approached stories with sharp critical thinking, was an exceptional word editor and blended discipline and good humor to create an excellent working rapport with his reporters, other editors and the many different types of sources a newspaper regularly deals with. I can be reached by email at email@example.com and would welcome the opportunity to discuss his work any time."
Stacy St. Clair, reporter, Chicago Tribune:
"Jim is a thoughtful, detailed-oriented and communicative editor, who knows how to improve a story in both subtle and substantial ways.
"A champion of new ideas and hard work, Jim has a knack for finding mistakes – grammatical and factual – in even the cleanest-seeming copy. The list of award-winning reporters saved by his eagle-eyed editing is equal parts long and grateful. Jim’s most enviable talent, however, is his ability to make copy sing with a simple tweak or a powerful turn of phrase. He returns copy better than when he received it, which is the highest compliment one can bestow upon an editor. Many writers – myself included – consider themselves lucky to have worked with Jim Davis."
Marie Wilson, senior staff writer, Daily Herald:
"Jim Davis is a great example of the classic kind of editor who always makes your work better. When I was a first-year reporter working to find my voice and my narrative skills in longer-form projects, Jim's abilities to summarize rambling content and to punch up bland language were key to my growth. Jim has a vivid way with words, but instead of forcing his voice and his style onto those he works with, he gives tips that help writers find their own flair and form. Never afraid to be blunt when necessary or to ask the tough questions that expose holes, Jim brings editing skills that are always a plus. His direction and guidance were a major help during the earliest stages of my career."
Elida Witthoeft, coordinating editor, ESPN
"When I started my journalism career at the Daily Herald, I inherited my beat from Jim Davis. I was so lucky that happened. He was patient, an excellent teacher, an excellent journalist and spent a lot of time guiding me and offering advice in my first few years on the job. I learned an immeasurable amount about reporting and writing from him ... and now, 37 years later ... I still use the skills he helped me grow. Jim is fair, reasoned, detailed-oriented and has always had a passion for his work. He might be retired from full-time reporting and editing, but he'd make an excellent free-lance editor or writer. It would be a shame for his skills to go to waste."