RIP Jim

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Jim Axel, WAGA

Longtime WAGA anchor / reporter Jim Axel lost his battle with cancer Saturday morning.   He was 75.

Axel was always an inspiration to me.  When I first realized that big-market daily TV news had the capacity to quickly burn out a young career, I would look at Axel and watch the way he handled it.

In 1986, when I started at WAGA, Axel had been temporarily dethroned as the station’s nightly anchor.  At that time, he worked the streets as “senior reporter.”  He returned to the anchor desk when WAGA started its 5pm newscast.

Axel was smart, passionate, occasionally surly and uncompromising in his standards of journalism.  He had a twenty-plus year head-start on me, career-wise.  If he could do it, I figured — maybe I can.

I can’t begin to match the thoughtful and amusing observations about Axel made by longtime WAGA EP Mark Shavin.  Go here to read Axel’s obit; but especially, go here to read Shavin’s tribute.  Here’s a short excerpt:

He could be funny and solicitous one moment and gruff and short-tempered the next. He was of an age when news anchors were hard charging and larger than life. Jim took his role seriously. The news mattered. The trust of his audience mattered. His reputation mattered. If you were his producer, you developed a thick skin. If you stood your ground with Jim, he respected you, but you had to earn your stripes every day. I can remember countless times asking him to write a minute and a half piece on the big national or international story of the day, only to be met with a sharp rebuke. Jim Axel, WAGA with Walter Cronkite

“Are you kidding? There’s no video for this story? Am I supposed to make it out of thin air?”

He’d storm back to his desk, and I wouldn’t hear another word until he returned, glasses perched on his nose, asking me to read his copy.

“It’s too long,” I’d say.

“I couldn’t tell half a story!”

“You said you had no video.”

Somehow it always came together, and we’d both end up reasonably satisfied, our mutual if grudging respect intact—at least until the next fight.

After he was diagnosed with cancer, Shavin produced a TV retrospective on his career.  It was based on an interview Shavin conducted with Axel in spring 2009.  To see it, click here.

I’ll wear a red tie to work Monday, an Axel tribute suggested by his longtime colleague, sports guy Bill Hartman.  The red tie was Axel’s signature look.

Services for Axel are still pending, according to WAGA’s web site.

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Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form, zero, zilch, nada. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

12 thoughts on “RIP Jim

  1. Kay Flowers

    As I just noted on FB, Jim was a “real” newsman and I looked up to him from my time as an intern with GPTV’s “The Lawmakers” God rest his soul.

    Reply
  2. Michael King

    When I came to Atlanta as a renegade talk radio guy in ’94, Axel was one of those guys I looked up to as part of the Atlanta “old guard” of journalism. I never had the pleasure of meeting him. I wish I had in those days. They certainly don’t make ‘em like him anymore.

    Reply
    1. Ron Sailor

      Hello Michael. Gret coment on Axel. I knew him well and respected him much, I hope you and the family are well. Let’s get together and talk shop soon. I’m doing great enjoying the good life of pastoring some great people out in Gwinnett county, Contact me at the above e-mail.

      Talk soon….

      Ron Sailor
      Former
      WSB-TV
      WXIA-TV
      KISS 104.7
      WVEE
      WAOK
      WIGO
      WETV

      Reply
  3. Jim

    Sitting here watching the story on WAGA….It’s sad really, that anchors have devolved from a figure of trust…He just said something about being believable, and that nails it. When Jim said it, it just was, period.

    Reply
  4. LBJ

    Being a native of Atlanta, I watched a lot of WAGA news. Jim was indeed a solid news anchor from an era when credibility meant something.

    Reply
  5. Ben

    Jim was old school journalism. Truth was most important; there was no place for opinion in a news story. Listeners could form their opinion from the facts. Too bad opinion now passes for fact, and too many of us choose to listen to those whose views mirror our own preconceived ideas. Not much enlightment comes from that. Peace be with you, Jim.

    Reply
  6. Pingback: Former WAGA anchor Jim Axel, 75, passes | Radio & TV Talk

  7. Cal Callaway

    Jim Axel was the first anchorman I ever saw on Atlanta television. Growing up in Athens, the Callaway family’s routine was to watch WAGA’s 6pm newscast anchored by Jim and Ray Moore followed by Cronkite every night during dinner. In my senior year at UGA, I attended an investigative reporting seminar where Jim and 11Alive’s Gary Franklin gave the major presentations. I never had the pleasure of meeting him, but I can honestly say it was an honor watching him and admiring his work.

    Reply
  8. Pingback: Former WAGA anchor Jim Axel, 75, passes | ATL Report - Atlanta News and Gossip

  9. Pingback: RIP Jim Axel « Talking with Tim

  10. Pingback: Jim Axel rites « live apartment fire

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