Carolyn Wyman got a few facts very wrong in a story in her first job in journalism. She talked about those mistakes with her dad, James Wyman, who was then the editor at The Providence (Rhode Island) Journal.
“I was pretty upset about it, but he was more measured,” Carolyn Wyman told Poynter in an email, “acknowledging that I had better be a lot more careful while at the same time, making me feel like it was fixable, not making me feel like I should just hang it up.”
Her dad was good with people, always measured, “and when I find myself in a tough psychodynamic spot, I almost automatically think about how my dad would handle the situation and try to do likewise.”
James Wyman spent 44 years at the Journal and retired as executive editor. He died May 9 at his home in South Kingston, Rhode Island. He was 90. During his career, he “directed coverage of corruption in the Rhode Island court system that won the newspaper a Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism in 1994,” according to his obituary. He was also a husband and the father of three children. Only Carolyn Wyman became a journalist, a job she says her father neither pushed her toward nor away from. She now works at Philadelphia City Paper. One of her brothers, J. Vernon Wyman, is an administrator at the University of Rhode Island and the other, Douglas Wyman, is a television scriptwriter who wrote for “Newhart,” “Murphy Brown,” and “Family Ties.”
Carolyn Wyman remembers her father working a lot, going in early, coming home late, sometimes missing dinner, “fielding phone calls even while we were on vacation (which I remember my mom not liking too much),” she wrote. “But it was all without complaint. It was clear to me that he loved his work and that it really interested him.” (His family has established The James V. Wyman Memorial Scholarship in Journalism at the University of Rhode Island.)
On May 9, G. Wayne Miller wrote about James Wyman’s passing for the Journal.
Joel P. Rawson, executive editor before Heslin, said, “I don’t think people are aware of the impact Jim Wyman had on The Providence Journal, on Rhode Island and on the people who worked for him. Jim effectively led The Journal newsroom from the late ’70s, when he was the deputy executive editor until the late ’90s when he retired as executive editor. It was under his leadership that The Journal became a force for investigative reporting and extraordinarily effective guardian of journalistic and government standards.
“To me,” Rawson told Miller, “Jim’s passing also marks the passing of the generation of our fathers, the World War II veterans who came home determined to lead good lives and leave the world a better place than they found it.”
James Wyman witnessed the industry transform, but in 1996 and until his death, Miller wrote, he remained optimistic about newspapers.
“From my standpoint, newspapers are far better equipped to provide people that information than any other media form,” he said in the 1996 interview. “That’s not to say that newspapers in the future will present themselves in the same form, the traditional form that we’ve enjoyed over the years. Newspapers will have to change in many ways.”
In 2013, James Wyman spoke with the Journal about covering the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
James Wyman retired in 1995, but he and his daughter continued talking about their industry, Carolyn Wyman said, and the stories they loved.
“In fact, one of the last conversations I had with him that really got any traction (when he was pretty sick and not reacting to a lot) was about Carol McCabe,” a writer for the paper whose work he loved. “I was thinking he might want to talk about something more metaphysical,” she said, “but even then journalism was what he wanted to talk about.”