I'll Miss Jim Tellus, and So Will the Industry

The local TV world lost a very good GM and an even better guy when WTHR Indianapolis’ Jim Tellus passed away last week. I speak with a ton of station general managers in this business, but got to know Jim a lot better than most, because WTHR is something of a model station, and because Jim was always forthright–whether it was positive stuff like the station’s success or a more thorny matter such as The Jay Leno Show’s effect on his late news.

A former news director, Jim always called me back and always offered honest answers to tough questions.

I got to know him a bit two years ago when I was reporting a cover story on NBC affiliates that dominate despite not getting much help in primetime; the story begins with Jim reading off February 2008 sweeps results to his staff, then celebrating alongside them with some dessert trays and other goodies. He got a genuine kick out of sharing the good news with his crew, who he always seemed to credit for WTHR’s success.

“It was one of those times when people didn’t want to head back to their respective corners of the station,” Tellus told me at the time. “They didn’t want to lose the moment.”

More recently, we spoke about the cadre he was sending to Vancouver for the Olympics, as well as Indianapolis’ undying fanaticism for its Colts.

Jim was a New Yorker but loved the abundant sports culture he found in Indy when he arrived in 2006. I remember him telling me about the difference between Seattle, which he’d worked in previously, and Indianapolis, when the Seahawks were in the 2006 Bowl and the Colts in it in 2007. He said it was like night and day–Indy simply bled blue for its football crew. He also joked that his presence in a market seemed to have something to do with that market having a Super Bowl contender.

I would’ve addressed Jim’s death sooner, but was out of the country until last night. Despite all our phone convos, I never actually met Jim in person. I imagine he was a good guy to work for. I’ll miss his perspective on local television, and I’ll miss his friendship.

“This is a family and Jim was certainly an important part of this family,” said Dispatch CEO Michael Fiorile on the WTHR site. “Jim just had a real passion for everything he did. We’re just gonna miss him.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.