Jim Paymar's Dispatches from the Media Frontline
Jim Paymar is one of our own, born and bred in Duluth. He is a 1973 History graduate from UMD and knows how unpredictable life and the job market can be.
“You really have to be adaptable and flexible and you really have to take some chances,” Paymar said after his presentation during the College of Liberal Arts Networking Day.
Paymar began his college career at UMD but after a year went to the University of Minnesota’s main campus in the Twin Cities. He was actually forced to leave as the U of M shut down classes because of the student riots against the war in Vietnam. He moved back to Duluth and reenrolled at UMD to finish his degree in History with a minor in education so he could teach.
Paymar remembered a few key professors in the History department, “Dr. Huch really made history come alive for me. He had a real presence and he would really grab you and get you involved in the narrative of history and Doc Mayo was beyond inspiring in the Philosophy Department, he really made you think.”
Growing up, Paymar’s father was a broadcaster at TV and radio stations in the Duluth, first at WREX, WFTV and then over 25 years at KDAL.
He would eventually go on into broadcast journalism though that was not his goal. “I didn’t really think I wanted to go into the news business but it was kind of in my blood and once I got my toe in, I knew it was what I wanted to do and the career path I wanted to pursue.”
During his time at UMD, Paymar worked at WDSE the PBS station in Duluth. After graduation he moved to Victoria, British Columbia, but in Canada they required another year of education training before you could teach. "Broadcasting seemed a great alternative to selling insurance" he said.
"I started out on the graveyard shift doing the overnight news at CFAX Victoria. I was petrified the first time I had to do the news live but once I got over the initial fear I learned to love the challenge."
That was his first position as a news anchor. From there he held positions at KNTV in San Jose, KOMO-TV in Seattle, WABC-TV in New York and became the primetime anchor at KRON- TV in San Francisco. He also worked at the FOX Network as a correspondent on the "The Reporters", worked as anchor and correspondent for CNBC and worked at Business Week and the ABC News Radio Networks.
He conducted interviews with California Governor Jerry Brown, United Farm Workers leader Cesar Chavez and Black Panther leader Huey Newton. He covered the OJ Simpson trial and the fall of the Berlin Wall. He won four Emmys, along with other prestigious awards.
“I saw history unfolding and maybe that’s the connection with my job as a newsman and my History degree from UMD, I actually saw history unfolding,” Paymar said.
One of Jim’s favorite projects was an hour-long special that covered the crack cocaine epidemic in America. He traveled from New York, to D.C. to Miami and then to the source of the cocaine traffic, Bogota, Colombia.
He also did a piece on a boy whose family was poverty-stricken after his father moved to San Francisco for a job that did not exist and they were forced to live in a homeless shelter. Paymar said that after the show aired, the family received a house to live in for free for a year, numerous donations and the father received job offers. “You can make a difference in people’s lives by just telling a story,” Paymar said.
Paymar went on to found his own media consulting company, Paymar Communications Group. He works with corporations such as JPMorgan Chase, Pfizer, Bank of America, AOL, ING, The Wall Street Journal and many others.
“Now I'm on the other side of the camera and using the skills I learned behind it. I train people how to communicate, how to sharpen their presentation skills and media skills as well as helping executives in crisis communication and reputation management,” Paymar said.
And never does a summer go by that he doesn't come back to Duluth. "A visit to Lake Superior is my touchstone" Paymar said.
By Manda Lillie