This past year, the Utah journalism community lost a longtime educator and “old school” journalism figure, James A. Fisher, who died from complications of COVID-19 on October 31, 2021. Jim was one of The West View founders’ earliest mentors and advisors.
According to his obituary published in the Salt Lake Tribune, Fisher was an award-winning photojournalist who worked at the Boston Review of the Arts, Albuquerque Journal, Albuquerque Living magazine, and the Salt Lake Tribune. He was a born teacher. He taught both photo and print journalism at the University of Missouri, University of Utah, and Utah Valley University.
He encouraged young reporters to "Go out and do it. Live it. Then tell someone." His other mantras were, “Show, don’t tell,” and “So what?”
Back in 2001, Fisher took notice of a new community publication called The West View that arrived in his mailbox. As a Westside resident and University of Utah associate journalism professor who had been involved in a few newspaper startups over the years, his interest was piqued.
He engaged his upper lever graphic design class in critiquing the third issue of The West View and mailed us a long list of suggestions to make the design look more professional. We took the unsolicited feedback to heart and reached out to Fisher to arrange a meeting.
This was the beginning of a long mentorship from Fisher, who eagerly passed on his knowledge of journalism to West View contributors and staff over the years. He taught the paper’s founders the ropes of community journalism, taught a journalism course to aspiring West View reporters in partnership with Salt Lake Community College’s Community Writing Center, conducted photojournalism workshops for contributors, and served on West View Media’s board of directors.
“I learned so much from Jim,” said Sarah Morton Taggart, a long-time West View volunteer and former student of Fisher’s. “He’s the reason I got involved with The West View back in 2014. I knew that any project he endorsed would be a worthwhile venture. When I’m feeling discouraged by the state of the world, I hear his voice saying ‘truth to power’ and I get back to work, trying to tell the important stories about my community.”
Fisher encouraged a standard of excellence and influenced many facets of this paper, including graphic design, layout, photography, reporting. He will be greatly missed but not forgotten.