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Finding Faith: Remembering a grizzled sports editor for his big heart

"Jim Carrington, a reporter and editor at the Bemidji Pioneer newspaper in Bemidji, Minnesota, for 52 years, died at 93. His legacy isn’t widely known, but his effect on Minnesota’s sports reporting has reverberated for decades."

070622.N.BP.CARRINGTON Jim Carrington 2.jpeg
Jim Carrington inspects the paper at his desk in the middle of his organized clutter.
Courtesy / Monte Draper
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This past week Minnesota lost a newspaper legend that unfortunately too few knew.

Jim Carrington, a reporter and editor at the Bemidji Pioneer newspaper in Bemidji, Minnesota, for 52 years, died at 93. His legacy isn’t widely known, but his effect on Minnesota’s sports reporting has reverberated for decades.

But Jim also had an effect on many people personally. Stories that don’t ever get told. But I want to share mine.

Early in my journalism career, Jim took a chance on me. I recently had to close down a newspaper I owned and needed a job ASAP. We had a young baby; I needed a paycheck.

The Pioneer needed a sports reporter, and the publisher asked Jim if my “warm body would suffice.” And while I had no idea how to compile a box score nor how to keep a scorebook during a game, Jim said yes, launching the sports reporter period of my journalism career.

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To many, Jim was nothing but an irascible, out-of-touch grouch who couldn’t accept the changing times of newspapers, sports and society. And, to be fair, Jim spent a good amount of time earning that reputation.

But there was another side to Jim most didn’t see.

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I was young then, and day care was expensive. So, in a time when workplace flexibility was a novel idea, Jim accepted that often our oldest son could be seen snoozing next to my computer terminal as I designed sports pages late at night. And at other times, our son would ride shotgun with me as I covered games. Jim never raised a fuss, and soon referred to our son as “Tiger,” the unpaid sports assistant.

Jim and I eventually even struck up an amicable friendship. Finding driving out of town difficult as he aged, he would ride with me to games I was covering. And while he was easily moved to excoriate a reader, a fellow staffer or a sports coach with whom he was at odds, Jim never once was unkind to me.

Over his lifetime, Jim donated tens of thousands of hours to coaching baseball, spilled thousands of barrels of ink praising northern Minnesota’s young athletes and donated an untold small fortune to support local athletes.

Jim and I never talked about our faith, but thanks to time, I now can see his trail of giving, his big heart and his faith in humanity, even though it may have been tough to discern a quarter century ago.

I don’t know what had toughened this New Jersey-born bachelor who never married nor had children. I suspect there was a deep story there. But I do know there also was kindness there, hidden deep. And for some inexplicable reason, he chose to display it to me. While he owed me nothing, he reached out a hand and lifted me up at the very moment I needed it, changing my newspaper career and my life forever.

Rest in peace, Jim. You’ve more than earned it.

Related Topics: FAITH
Opinion by Devlyn Brooks
Devlyn Brooks is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and serves Faith Lutheran Church in Wolverton, Minn. He also works for Forum Communications Co. He can be reached at devlyn.brooks@forumcomm.com for comments and story ideas.
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