20 years of stories as only WFAA's Jim Douglas can tell

Jim Douglas looks back on years in news business

It's no surprise News 8's Jim Douglas told a captivating story as we asked him to look back on his time at WFAA. It's all he's done here since 1996.

Jim Douglas, who has spent the last 20 years of his illustrious career in TV news with us here at WFAA, told his last story Wednesday and will spend more time in Ohio dealing with a developing family situation.

His final piece was a reflection of the many stories he's shared and people he's touched.

"I feel like this is something I need to do," Douglas told us on Wednesday. "[...] I have another role to play that, at this point, is more important in my life. And I've got to fulfill that role."

As we spoke to Jim over the phone from WFAA's Fort Worth bureau, where he has been based for the vast majority of his time with the station, he said his goal as a reporter and a storyteller was to make the world smaller.

Whether that means making viewers understand how little separates them from the horrors drunk driving can heap onto innocent victim's lives, or that a young refugee across the world in the Balkans isn't all that different from their own children, Jim has told stories through the years that touched on emotions we all share as human beings.

"It's a tiny little world. And I hope that I made it [feel that way]," Douglas said. "It was always my goal -- to convey the feelings of people and let them know that there's not that great a distance between us and them, whoever 'us' and 'them' might be."

  • Click here on mobile or scroll below to watch Jim's most recent entry in the Edward R. Murrow Awards' News Writing category.

Jim illustrated his point with a story of that trip to the refugee camp, which, for him, began in Italian restaurants in North Texas. He was there to talk to the Albanian immigrants and refugees who own and staff many of the Italian restaurants in the area.

"Their families were being forced out of their homes, and I would be with them as they were talking on the phone to their families, who were hiding in basements with gunmen outside and they were being chased out," Douglas said.

Jim continued to follow the story from the other side of the world when WFAA's news director at the time approved he and a crew to travel to a refugee camp in Macedonia, near the Kosovo border. He said the only instructions he was given were basically, "Do what you do best."

The crew went to a camp of Albanian Muslims forced out of Kosovo by the Serbs. Jim estimated there were 10,000 to 20,000 people living in a massive, dirty tent city.

Surrounded by an experience wholly unfamiliar to the vast majority of North Texans, Jim looked for the familiar.

"I look inside one of the tents -- Tent 173 -- and there's a little girl my daughter's age who's playing with Barbies," Douglas said. "And she doesn't know whether or not her dad is alive or dead. She doesn't know if her home has been burned. She knows that she saw people chased away at gunpoint. And here she is, playing with Barbies and likes to watch Cartoon Network."

And it wasn't long before Jim tied the story to back home.

"One of the refugees sees I have a satellite phone. So she comes up to me and asks, 'Can you call my uncle in America and tell him I've survived, and I'm alive and I'm here?'" Jim recalled. "And I said, 'OK, if you'll write down the number and the name.'

"She starts writing down the number, and the area code is 9-7-2," he continued. "I call the number, and the voice at the other end says 'Jim, it's me, Gerardo. We've met.'

"I met him at an Italian restaurant in Valley Ranch," Douglas told us.

For 20 years at News 8, Jim has found amazing stories like that and shared them in some of the most beautifully-written pieces in the station's history.

  • Click here on mobile or scroll below to watch Jim's 2015 AP Awards entry, including coverage of the trial of Eddie Routh, the man who killed "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle

Jim won one of his three regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his reporting in the Balkans, as well as coverage of the impact on methamphetamines on unborn children, and news writing. He has also won five Lone Star Emmy Awards and two medals from the Texas Headliner Foundation.

"I've worked in this business since the Monday after Jimmy Carter was elected president of the United States and I would say, in all that time, [Jim] is one of the three or four best writers I've ever worked with, in television or anywhere," said News 8 Anchor John McCaa. "[...] In terms of video literature, there isn't anybody in this market who has been consistently doing work like him as long as he's been doing it."

From Hurricane Katrina to the massacre of 23 people at a Luby's in Killeen  to the tragic shootings at Wedgewood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Jim has covered some of the biggest national, state, and local stories of the last 20 years at WFAA and has worked to make them resonate with people not tied to the events.

"Jim has always had the ability to combine the power of words with a keen understanding of the human condition," said WFAA-TV News Director Carolyn Mungo. "It's exactly why his stories are the ones we remember."

More recently, Jim has extensively covered the story of Abdallah Khader, a 2-year-old who was left in a vegetative state and died six years after he was hit by a drunk driver. He said it was a privilege to be invited to the Khaders' home again and again to watch Abdallah's mother care for him and tell his story after the accident.

"The families who trusted me to tell their stories at their worst hours -- what a privilege for someone to trust you like that," Douglas said. "To get to tell that story."

  • Click here on mobile or scroll below to watch Jim's 2015 Murrow Award entry, including the emotional story from when Abdallah's mother confronted the man who caused the crash

Jim also earned attention nationally for his detailed coverage of the murder of "American Sniper" Chris Kyle and the trial of his killer, Eddie Routh.

He's also extensively covered the crime and ongoing punishment saga in the case of Ethan Couch, who became nationally known as the "affluenza" teen, after he killed four people in a drunk driving crash.

And Jim has always had a soft spot for our military. He has fought to tell veterans' stories and participated in Carry the Load each year since its inception.

Making viewers better understand and feel the impact of the stories of the people of North Texas has been Jim's goal for 20 years at WFAA and another 10 years before that anchoring and reporting at KXAS-TV (NBC 5).

"If it's a woman who, God bless her, falls in the Trinity and drowns because she was trying to take a shortcut to a job interview, that's important," he said. "If it's a man in Decatur who's devoted his life to his daughter who was turned into a vegetable by a drunk driver, [...] to go back and visit with him two, three, four times, that brings it home.

"You get inspired by that. I get inspired by that," Douglas said. "They enrich my life and make me a better person. And I hope that I was able to convey that through the stories."

Copyright 2016 WFAA


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