Ryan Trares: Thanks to a mentor

Throughout our lives, a select number of special people help shape who we become.

Our parents and family lay the foundation for our earliest values. Teachers give us the knowledge and skills to be successful. Friends celebrate with us in the best of times and support in the lowest.

And in my case, newspaper editors have mentored and led me through the world of journalism. One of the most important of those was a man named Jim Bush.

I was a fresh-out-of-college graduate looking for my first newspaper job. My job search had been lethargic up to that point; there had been a few interviews around the Toledo area, but as those fell through, I expanded my search farther and farther out.

Jim was the editor of the Frankfort Times, a small daily covering the rural community of Clinton County, Indiana. He invited me to come out for an interview, and on a rainy day, I made the 3 1/2 hour drive to Frankfort. Sitting in the paper’s waiting room, I was jittery and nervous, hopeful that this interview would turn out better than the others.

Immediately, I was put at ease. Jim came out with a smile, shook my hand and walked me through the newsroom. We went to lunch with the paper’s news editor, where they of course asked me questions about my journalism background, news experience, and strengths and weaknesses. But they also asked about me as a person, what I liked to do, where I saw myself in the future.

It was as easy-going of an interview as I can remember. And when Jim called me back a few days later to offer me a job, I readily accepted.

My six years at the Frankfort Times transformed me, from a kid who liked to write into a journalist. I was expected to cover my beats completely, asking hard questions and never letting a source off the hook just because I was uncomfortable.

Jim wasn’t a fire-breathing tyrant, ruling the newsroom with an iron fist like so many stereotypical editors do. He was easy-going and friendly, even a little bit goofy. He loved Indiana University basketball and Colts football, as well as watching NASCAR.

Besides his reputation in the Indiana journalism world, his claim to fame was having a short role in the 1993 basketball movie “Blue Chips” starring Nick Nolte, Ed O’Neill and Shaquille O’Neal — some of the scenes had been filmed in Frankfort.

He was quick to laugh and make a joke, assuming we weren’t on deadline. That demeanor changed when someone attacked his reporters or stood in the way of our job to uncover the truth. His mild nature could not be confused with meekness; Jim wouldn’t stand for that, and he wouldn’t let his staff either.

Those years at the Frankfort Times changed my life in other ways, too. It’s where I met my wife, setting me on the course I’m on today. Jim came to our wedding, and even after all of us left the paper, we stayed in touch, albeit not as often as we liked.

So it was a gut punch when we learned Jim died recently. He had been only 61 years old. When we received the terrible news, I sat with my wife as we consoled each other as best we could — by telling old stories of our time in Frankfort.

We laughed about Jim’s habit of never quite catching our frantic messages when we’d burst into his office, forcing us to repeat what we had just said. Memories of late Friday nights covering breaking news or hectic Election Days came rushing back.

We shared the stories with Anthony, letting him know how much our old editor meant to us. He had never met Jim, but we hope he understood the role he played in all three of our lives.

I may have never had a chance to thank him while he was alive, so I’m taking the time now: Jim, thanks for the guidance, the patience, the opportunity and the laughs. You’ll be missed, old friend.

Ryan Trares is a senior reporter and columnist for the Daily Journal. Send comments to [email protected].