Jim Boyer, a well-respected former news executive at TV stations across the country, whose nine years at WWL-TV included four years as news director in the mid-1980s, died Wednesday. He was 68.
Boyer was news director at Channel 4 from 1982 until 1986, also supervising the news department of sister radio stations WWL-AM and WAJY-FM. Prior to that, he had served as WWL's managing editor for five years, before Phil Johnson named him his successor as news director.
During his career in New Orleans, Boyer played a role in coverage of many major news stories of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Most notably, as news director he led the staff which covered the horrific crash of Pan Am Flight 759 in a south Kenner neighborhood on July 9, 1982. He also had a hand in coverage of the 1979 New Orleans Police strike, 1984 World's Fair and the indictments and trials of Gov. Edwin Edwards and Carlos Marcello, just to name a few of the major stories during his time here.
Even during times of crisis, such as the Pan Am crash, Boyer was known and respected for his steady hand, meticulous attention to detail, high standards and no-nonsense style.
"Low-key, unpretentious, fiercely loyal," is how former Times-Picayune TV columnist Mark Lorando described him in a 1984 column.
Former WWL-TV executive producer and assistant news director Mike Adams said Boyer's military training contributed to his strong organizational skills, which built a foundation for WWL news coverage.
"He introduced newsroom systems that everyone could appreciate and understand their role in. And they were often very detailed, with charts, graphs and explanations of everyone's role in the process," Adams said.
"Even more than that, he had an incredible eye for on-air talent as well as behind the scenes people, and was very good at nurturing and developing them," Adams said. He counted off the names of nearly two dozen reporters, producers, managers, engineers and photographers, some of whom went on to become major media figures here and across the country.
Former WWL-TV news anchor Angela Hill, now host of a daily talk show on WWL Radio, agreed that Boyer brought stability to WWL's already-strong newsroom in the 1980s.
"Jim was an organizational genius but, at the same time, extremely creative. His background was in producing, so he created what is now our producing system at WWL," she said.
"He, like Phil Johnson before him, loved to think big with special programs and documentaries. Because of him, we went to China with a local business group and to Africa to see the plight of endangered animals. He helped bring the world to New Orleans."
Boyer left New Orleans in 1986 for the position of news director at KOMO-TV in Seattle, where he was later promoted to station manager. He joined KATU-TV in Portland, Oregon in 1992, serving as vice president and general manager until 2001. He then served as president and general manager at WHO-TV in Des Moines before moving to Oklahoma City in 2007 as general manager.
Boyer retired in 2012 after a 48-year career in broadcasting. At the time of his retirement, he was president and general manager of KFOR/KAUT-TV in Oklahoma City.
"By my account I've had a pretty good run over the years. I've lived in some wonderful cities and worked at some great television stations. And I've associated with some of the most talented and creative people in the business. It's been a grand experience," he said at the time.
Boyer began his career as a news reporter in York, Pa., in the mid-1960s, after attending York College. Boyer came to WWL-TV from Philadelphia, where he was executive news producer at KYW-TV, from 1975 to 1976. He had also worked at WJZ in Baltimore.
He is survived by his wife, Jan; two children, Liz and Andy; and a stepson, Andrew.
Funeral arrangements are pending.