He has the perfect name for news: Tellus. Jim Tellus, by all accounts a good newsman and good guy, is the new news director at WTHR (Channel 13). He replaces Jacques Natz, who left the local NBC station after 10 years to become director of digital media content for Hearst-Argyle Television in New York.

Tellus comes to Indianapolis from KOMO in Seattle. He’s also run TV newsrooms in Wichita, Kan., and Norfolk, Va.

“I saw the opportunity to take over a station that every news director dreams of — one that is not only a dominant force in the market but has a company that supports it,” he said in an interview.

Tellus said he didn’t know anything about Indianapolis before coming here to interview for the job.

He’s worked at stations that have newsgathering partnerships with newspapers like WTHR has with The Indianapolis Star, but he said it’s too early to say how he views this arrangement.

And he also said it’s too early to talk about any changes at Channel 13.

Here’s what else he said about:

•    Working for a family-owned station that actually spends money on its news operation: “It is amazing. WTHR and Dispatch have a national reputation for being quality broadcasters. They invest in stations like owners used to. The bottom line is, they know they’ll be rewarded with market dominance. It kind of restores my faith in our industry. I won’t give you specifics, but I’ll tell you that my newsroom budget here is bigger than my newsroom budget in Seattle.”

•    The competition: “I think every station covers the news of the day fine. It’s what you do beyond that that separates us. There are a lot of things that separate us. With the resources we have, we’re able to do more and cover more.”

•    His news philosophy: “The thing I tend to focus on and I’ve had success with is doing the stories that connect with the community. So much of what we get blamed for in TV is covering the low-hanging fruit, the stuff it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to do. The hard part is getting into the meaty stuff.

“In Seattle, we did a big story on something called inflammatory breast cancer. It is a very little known but the deadliest form of breast cancer. It doesn’t look like traditional breast cancer with lumps; it looks like a spider bite. And there is such little information out there for primary-care physicians, and many times it’s misdiagnosed.

“We shed light on this in Seattle because this one woman in Seattle was so upset because her daughter died and no one had ever heard of this before. Our story took off across the Internet and 12 million people downloaded this story. There is no doubt in my mind that that story saved lives …

“It’s good to feel good about what you do for a living. At the end of the day, I want everyone to know that we’re making Central Indiana a better place to live. I know that sounds pious, but that’s exactly what we should be doing.”


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