NPPA Emeritus Editor James R. "Jim" Gordon, 1932-2015

Jim Gordon, who died at home today in Bowling Green, OH, was pleased with a brand new Leica camera body the NPPA gave him when he retired as News Photographer magazine's editor after 25 years. Gordon was presented with the new camera in Chicago during NPPA's summer meeting in 2003.
Jim Gordon, who died at home today in Bowling Green, OH, was pleased with a brand new Leica camera body the NPPA gave him when he retired as News Photographer magazine's editor after 25 years. Gordon was presented with the new camera in Chicago during NPPA's summer meeting in 2003.

ATHENS, GA (February 14, 2015) – James R. "Jim" Gordon, the emeritus editor of News Photographer magazine and an emeritus professor of photojournalism at Bowling Green State University, died at home late Saturday afternoon after a two-month battle with cancer. 

Gordon, once the very public voice of the National Press Photographers Association for 25 years as editor of NPPA's News Photographer magazine, was 82.

The journalist's son Kevin told News Photographer magazine tonight his father had been resting at home in Bowling Green with home hospice care after returning from a hospice facility 14 days ago.

"Jim Gordon was a man who enjoyed debate, especially about the covers of News Photographer magazine," William Hodge remembers. Hodge was NPPA's president in 1988.

"The big debate always centered upon exactly how much catastrophe was palatable on the cover. In our business of news media, as the saying goes, 'If it bleeds, it leads,' was always a good discussion with Jim. He wasn't afraid to display catastrophic images on the cover of News Photographer magazine, images that would never see the light of day of a newspaper front page. But as we discussed many times, he was always sensitive to the news value of the mayhem and death with which he might grace the magazine cover. Maintaining the credibility of the magazine, the photojournalism profession and the organization were important to him."

An NPPA Life Member, Gordon is remembered by many for his famous red handlebar mustache that perched above a wide grin. Gordon retired as the magazine's editor in May 2003 after publishing more than 300 issues of the magazine, including several annual directories. Gordon was the magazine's sixth editor, and his publishing count surpassed that of NPPA's founder, Joe Costa, who published only 257 issues of the magazine over his 21 year editorship.

Former NPPA president Hodge fondly remembered, "While his handlebar mustache made Jim stand out from a crowd, there were other whimsical ingredients in his character. While visiting Jim in 1987, then-NPPA president John Cornell and I were led deep into the bowels of News Photographer magazine's basement newsroom to meet his staff. We were surprised to find a menagerie of cats keeping him company with his publishing chores. I surmise these cats provided Jim with the Nine Lives necessary to produce 25 years of News Photographer Magazine."

The former editor's son revealed that the trademark curled mustache was accidently clipped off by a well-meaning hospital aide during a nursing home stay. "I had to do a double-take when I went into his room to make sure it was him," Kevin said.

"Jim Gordon was influential to me in my early years," Russ Kendall remembers.

"He published a News Photographer cover story on a weekly newspaper that I started on Cape Cod in 1982 called the Woods Hole Weekly. I wrote several stories for the magazine about the Great Alaskan Newspaper War, as well as pieces on award-winning photographers such as the Boston Globe's Bill Greene. He'd try to pay me $200 per piece and I'd always decline, saying that the money should go back into the publishing fund. 

"I have a vivid recollection of how, whenever I'd call him on the phone, he'd say, 'Well hello, Russell' in that quick, high-pitched, Bowling Green voice of his. He was absolutely one of my favorite people and whenever I, as an NPPA regional director for nearly 10 years, attended an NPPA event that he also attended, would do my darndest to sit at his table. He was, as my wife would say, 'a dearie pie.'"

While Gordon was the magazine's editor he was also the head of the photojournalism sequence at Bowling Green State University. He retired from BGSU and that position in 1991 after 25 years in the job. Before that, he was director of BGSU's News and Photo Service, and he was also an advisor to the school's yearbook from 1959 to 1981. Today he is a retired emeritus professor in BGSU's Department of Journalism and Public Relations.

After college Gordon worked for The Chronicle-Telegram in Elyria, OH, and The Star in Columbus, and for seven summers he was a staff photographer at The Blade in Toledo.

He joined NPPA in January 1967, being a member now for 48 years. He was made an NPPA Life Member in November 1996. 

In 1986 Gordon was presented with NPPA's highest honor, the Joseph A. Sprague Memorial Award. Over the years he was also honored with the NPPA Kenneth P. McLaughlin Award in 1979, with the inaugural NPPA Jim Gordon Editor of the Year Award in 2002, and with NPPA President's Medals in 1978, 1982, 1991, 1999, and 2003. 

Gordon included his BGSU students in the monthly production process of creating each issue of News Photographer magazine, and his wife Joan was the magazine's "eagle-eye" copy editor for most of his editorship. Joan Gordon died on September 13, 2013, from liver cancer. She was 78.

In 1971, Gordon ran for mayor of Bowling Green as an Independent with Democratic support, coming in second in a three-person race.

Gordon is survived by his two adult children: son Kevin Gordon, and daughter Melissa Gordon Johnson; and three grandchildren by Melissa, Nick, Myles, and Zachary of St. Clair Shores, MI.; and a brother Laurance, of Wappingers Falls, N.Y., and brother and sister-in-law, Richard and Beverly Honkala, of Painesville.

Funeral services will be held Friday, February 20, 2015, at 11:00 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church, 1526 E. Wooster Street, in Bowling Green with Rev. Thomas Mellot officiating.

A public visitation will be held on Thursday from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the Dunn Funeral Home, located in the Historical District of Bowling Green at 408 W. Wooster Street.

Following the funeral service burial will be held at Oak Grove Cemetery.

The family asks that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Jim and Joan Gordon Journalism Scholarship, or to the Joan Honkala Gordon Gerontology Scholarship. The funds are administered by the Bowling Green State University Foundation Inc. Another favored charity is the Wood County Senior Center.