What I Learned From Jim Carnegie

By on Jul, 26 2016 with Comments 14

Jim Carnegie and Eric RhoadsBy Eric Rhoads

Yesterday I had a feeling that I should call Jim Carnegie. No reason except that we hadn’t talked in a while since I purchased RBR+TVBR from him, and he was on my mind. Today I learned of his passing.

For decades Jim Carnegie was my nemesis. Not so much because we competed, but just because of the nature of our relationship. He would call and tell me he was winning, that I might as well get out of the business. He would tell me stories about all the progress he was making, all the people that he was influencing, all the great things going on at his publication. Then he would hang up on me.

I have to admit, I didn’t much care for Jim Carnegie back then. He just rubbed me the wrong way, though I never returned the vitriol.

We continued to compete over the years; he started Radio Business Report when he and Jerry Del Colliano split up – that was more than 30 years ago. And I always thought he did a great job of reporting on the industry, especially the regulatory and financial aspects of the business.

What I didn’t care for was Jim’s rough edge, the side that would be overly tough with advertisers and was unfairly critical of and harsh toward the industry. Still, Jim called me about twice a year for over two decades. He talked to me about how he was winning (and why I was doing such a bad job), and then he would suggest I buy him out. He would throw out prices like $50 million, especially after R&R had sold for $70 million.

I never took the bait.

Then, after one call, I suggested we have dinner at a radio convention. It was there that I met his wife and partner, Cathy, for the first time. They were like sugar and spice – she was as sweet as he was difficult. We discussed a merger, and it seemed it was going to happen, mostly because of my respect for Cathy, but it never came about.

Then, sadly, in 2012, Cathy passed away.

Jim was devastated.

They had planned on selling the publication, retiring, and traveling together. That dream was shattered when Cathy suffered a brain aneurysm; she died a few days later. We spoke upon her death, and he was a sad and broken man, and perhaps more genuine than I had ever seen him.

It was then that we became a little closer. He was, at that moment, just a man who was broken after losing the love of his life.

Over time, Jim regained some of his original vinegar. He reached out to Jim Robinson, who at the time was running my business. Jim suggested that we should look at it.

I refused, but Jim persisted, explaining all the reasons I should do it.

I continued to resist. Eventually, a year or more had passed. Jim Robinson had all but given up, but suggested that I take one more look.

I agreed to look into it and decided we would do a deal, under one condition: I did not want to meet with Jim Carnegie.

So we did the deal, and, after hours of talking with Jim, I changed my mind and decided to appear at the closing.

I have to admit: That couple of days with Jim Carnegie were two of the most delightful days of my career. It was a true chance to get to know him, and have some deep conversations about the industry and his passion for it. We shared that love for radio. After all, we had both been air personalities at the same time, he at KQV/Pittsburgh, me at Y100 Miami. And I think that, because the competitive factor was gone, he felt he could treat me differently. I was going to carry on his legacy.

We brought RBR+TVBR into the Streamline family, redesigned it, and frankly had a tough time overcoming some issues with advertisers who had been offended by the way Jim had treated them. But our association with the brand and our reputation eventually overcame those issues.

As I heard of Jim’s passing, it occurred to me that I had learned an important lesson or two by dealing with him.

First, he was a man of conviction. He cared little about what others thought and believed deeply in his own opinions. I respect that.

Secondly, behind his gruff, hard, sometimes impossible-to-take exterior was a deeply caring man. It was a reminder that every difficult person has a soft side somewhere.

I also learned a lot about myself. In spite of our many unpleasant encounters, I was able to listen and forgive.

Ultimately the reason I bought RBR+TVBR wasn’t just because of the brand or the revenue. In some ways, letting it fade away might have been better. I bought it because Jim and Cathy had devoted their lives to it, they were passionate about the industry, and I didn’t want to see a legacy brand disappear or be diluted. It was truly an emotional decision.

Thankfully it has worked out, since emotional decisions are often mistakes.

The people of this industry probably rarely stop to think about a man like Jim Carnegie, who devoted his life to serving them, to keeping them informed and educated. But our industry owes him our gratitude. He may have had his gruff side, may have made some enemies, but his unwillingness to be bought allowed him to create some wonderful journalistic moments for our industry.

I never really cared for Jim Carnegie until I took the time to get beyond the veneer and know him as the great friend he turned out to be. Now I’m regretting not following my instincts and calling him yesterday.

I hope you’ll join me in taking a moment to reflect on this man, his passion for our industry, and the important role he played.

I’ve asked our editors at RBR+TVBR to post memories and comments about Jim. Feel free to also leave your thoughts here. From what we understand Jim died of natural causes.

UPDATE: Friends have organized a “Celebration of Life” service for both Jim and his wife Cathy Carnegie.

The service is set for Sunday, August 21st at 5PM at Caddy’s on the Beach in Treasure Island, which is a beach in the St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida area.

A reception will follow the service. Organizers ask those who come to bring photos and stories you would like to share. Spread the word and please RSVP on Jim’s Facebook page if you can stay for the reception.

About The Author: RBR+TVBR has been reporting on the business of broadcasting for nearly three decades. Beholden to no one, it is independently owned.

  1. Dennis Wharton Says:

    Sorry to read this. Jim Carnegie could be challenging at times, but he was a digital publishing pioneer and had a tremendous love for our great business. I’m not sure he ever recovered from Cathy’s sudden death. RIP, Jimbo.

  2. Katy Bachman Says:

    I worked for Jim as editor in chief of RBR for 4 years during the height of radio consolidation. Everything you wrote about Jim is spot-on. I will remember him for the chance he gave me to dive into the radio business, which to this day I consider my first love. Despite his outsized personality, he mostly let me run with my ideas. When it was time for me to leave, I used one of Jim’s favorite phrases: “my way or the highway.” I took the highway, but I also took with me experience that has served me well in broadcasting. For that, I have Jim to thank.

  3. I was a blue collar, lunch bucket toten broadcast sales guy for forty plus years. A grunt that loves radio! Early on as a paying subscriber I fell in love with the publication. I have to read it every day!

    However, when I finally retired it was one of the first luxuries I had to consider cutting out because of the cost. I e-mailed Jim, explained my situation. He said to talk to Kathy. I did a couple of times. With his blessing and generosity we worked out an arrangement I couldn’t refuse.

    Thank you, Jim and Kathy! I know you guys, like me, read it every day, too!

  4. Dan Mason Says:

    Jim loved the radio business but loved his late wife far more. After Cathy died, Jim was never himself again despite his friends best encouragement. He’d have a few good days but I know most were empty. If there were ever someone who died of a broken heart it would have been Jim.

    RIP Jimbo.

  5. Well said Eric. There is something to be said about that old line, you can take the kid out of Pittsburgh, but you can never take the Pittsburgh out of the kid. When you grow up in town that people used to make fun of all the time, you tend to carry a bit of chip on your shoulder. And when you mix that with the drive to succeed in radio, no matter what your role might be, you tend to push a little harder. Growing up in the ‘burgh you learn that gift of gab, as my old man used to say, is your most valuable currency. Jim was always the longest phone call, the most intense conversation, sometimes about nothing but gossip. Someone has to be the critic, someone has to call out the a-holes for what they are and someone has to be the person who thinks the world is against him in order to get up and do it again. The underdog in all of us mourns today, but what I learned is, Love conquers all.

  6. Eric, what a beautiful, authentic job of capturing Jim. Most people are a mixed bag – Jim was like that.
    I knew him and had written for RBR through my colleague June Barnes, with whom I’d worked at M Street.) we’d all meet and talk at the NAB. You’re so right, he was a different guy when he was with his lovely wife. The end of their story is heart breaking. RIP.

  7. James Duncan, JR Says:

    Until the 1970’s the radio trade press was weak at best. “Broadcasting” was more interested in TV, R&R was more interested in music, and the others mostly just printed press releases. In the 1970’s a new type of trade press developed…sort of a “sub” trade press. This group of entrepreneurs loved radio but was not afraid to to also be critical of radio…both its current state and where it was going. Jim Carnegie was a leader of this type of coverage. He certainly could be caustic but this gruff exterior was shallow. If you took the time to get to know him, he was a warm and thoughtful man. I spent many evenings with Jim and Cathy in their back yard talking radio and life. I suppose he was a competitor of mine in a way but it never felt that way. I am just glad that he and Cathy were part of my lifescape.

  8. Eric,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the passing of Jim Carnegie, the founder of a publication that will live on by honoring him and his wife by continuing to bring the industry information, insight and thought-provoking content and analysis. As a 11-year editor at Radio & Records, joining the team in DC and days later moving to L.A., RBR and Jim Carnegie were competitors, as were RadioInk and FMQB and AllAccess and others covering radio as the Telecommunications Act of 1996 served as my welcome to an industry i had loved since I was 5. Jim was indeed talked about at R&R in a not -so-nice tone. After Nielsen cleaned house on August 8, 2006, I had my one and only chat with RBR’s owner. Mr. Carnegie certainly projected an attitude but inside that was the same passion and vitriol that led me into a 10+ year stint at R&R. Today I remember another individual that simply wanted to be the best, even if it took failed Machiavellian techniques and some gruffness. In a world where radio seemingly gets no love, let’s remember a guy who lived to love radio and is now reunited with his only bigger love, Cathy.

  9. I will miss Jim Carnegie to. I came to know Jim Carnegie differenly than most. I started talking to Jim when he was a weekend jock at KQV in Pittsburgh. I would call and ask questions about KQV as I was trying to get into radio. Jim would take all the time I needed. When I was out of work he gave me help in lokking for a job. Years later, Jim was more than willing to talk to me about my KQV tribute website and share his memories and insights. He was always kind and encouraging to me. He was nothing but class. Thanks Jim.

  10. What a great piece, Eric! I didn’t know Jim nearly as well as you (or as well as some of the people who posted comments before me), but your description of him is very consistent with my experiences with him.

    Jim was so open on social media about how heartbroken he was over Cathy’s passing that it really struck a chord with me. It certainly made me think and–more importantly–appreciate all of the special personal relationships I have in my life. For that reason alone, I am thankful that our paths crossed many times over the last 30 years.

  11. Joseph Tirinato Says:

    Very sad & way too young.
    Loss of Cathy was devastating.
    A unique personality & certainly one of the better people in the business.

  12. P Liguori Says:

    How very sad to hear of Jim’s passing at only age 66. I won’t claim to know Jim, as I’d only spoken with him and Cathy a few times, but am forever grateful to both for providing information and perspective about our industry that generally couldn’t be found in other publications. As well, Jim and Carl Marcucci often shed light on radio and TV research issues long before seismic shifts in measurement and technology made it de rigueur. My sincere condolences to all who knew Jim.

  13. Ken Lee Says:

    I learned a lot working with you Jim – thanks for the opportunity.

  14. Bishop Cheen Says:

    Jim Carnegie was an orignal–passionate about radio and TV, dedicated to his RBR and TVBR mastheads, incredibly loving and loyal to his wonderful wife Cathy, but brash beyond boundaries. Streamline publisher Eric Rhoads captures Jim’s bi-polarity in his reminiscent eulogy–and I have my own war stories.

    But Jim Carnegie should not be remembered for just his challenging ways. He should be admired for the bright light he beamed on the broadcasting business through good times and bad. Nothing escaped Jim’s beat as he daily compiled the industry’s history–warts and all.

    Jim also influenced a generation of media journalists–many of whom still publish today. He made them better than they might otherwise be via his trial-by-fire approach.

    Net net–I am sorry Jim is gone. But I am glad he was at his post the past decades to chronicle the radio & TV industries. Nobody could have done it quite like Jim.