Saturday, 2:15 PM
Jim Thistle, Boston TV news pioneer, dies at 66
Jim Thistle in the WCVB newsroom in 1982.
By Christopher Baxter, Globe Correspondent
Longtime Boston newsman Jim Thistle, who pioneered extended evening television newscasts and became the city’s preeminent news director, died today of cancer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He was 66.
“People refer to him as the blue-collar news director,” said his son, James Andrew Thistle of Pelham, N.H. “But the way people look at him in the industry was tenfold in my family. He was the leader of our family.”
Mr. Thistle’s career spanned more than 30 years and included stints at almost every major television news station in the city. He worked as news director at WLVI (Ch. 56), WBZ (Ch. 4), and WCVB (Ch. 5) before leaving to teach journalism at Boston University in 1982. He later took a leave of absence to become news director with WHDH (Ch. 7).
Friends and colleagues describe Mr. Thistle as a hands-on newsman, whose aggressive pursuit of substantive local stories raised the stature of television reporting in Boston. While at WBZ, Thistle expanded nightly news coverage to 90 minutes. Shortly after joining Ch. 5, he helped the station expand to an hour-long evening newscast.
“He was just as comfortable changing a tire on a news vehicle as he was changing the lead to the 6 o’clock news 30 seconds before it went to air,” said Natalie Jacobsen, longtime anchor at Ch. 5. “We all felt we were doing God’s work. …That’s how a Thistle newsroom operated: Full of passion, full of sense of purpose, the desire to get it right and to do it right.”
Mr. Thistle battled several forms of cancer for about a year, though his struggle intensified in the past few months, his son said. He lived in Everett with his wife, Jeanne.
In addition to his son and wife, he leaves two daughters Elizabeth and Deborah; two brothers, Patrick and Michael; a sister, Victoria; and five grandchildren.
A wake will be held from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at Ernest P. Caggiano & Son Funeral Home in Winthrop. A funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Immaculate Conception Parish in Everett. Both are open to the public.
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