I never knew or had the privilege of working for Jim Bellows, but I was fortunate to be a regular reader of his mid-'70s Washington Star and became a total fan. He was the kind of newspaper editor they just don't make anymore, a bold, creative, aggressive leader who wasn't afraid to tweak anybody in print. In fact, he seemed to revel in such tweaking, and in playing the underdog to more powerful competitors. His newspapers had real personalities and attitude, something you just don't see these days—and probably a reason why newspapers are losing readers.
- When he suspected that The Washington Post was lifting a syndicated item from the Star (long story!), he tinkered with the first letters of the first few paragraphs to that they spelled out something like "Hello Ben," to tweak rival Ben Bradlee—who was thus caught redhanded when the Post reproduced the altered copy verbatim. Gotcha!
- The Washington Star's gloriously irreverent Ear gossip column, written by Diana McLellan, which seemed to be mostly about the Post (aka "O.P." or "the Other Paper"), Bradlee and Sally Quinn (aka "The Fun Couple"). It was endlessly entertaining, a daily soap opera of high life in Washington. (Come to think of it, I think Bellows' Star also ran a daily soap opera feature that was mostly a thinly veiled insider version of life at the Post. Great stuff.) When the Star died in 1981 (post-Bellows), the Ear—and Doonesbury—moved to the Post, but it was never the same.
- What may have been Bellows' greatest moment, which happened when he was editing the Los Angeles Herald Examiner: In 1979, President Jimmy Carter was allegedly attacked by a crazed rabbit while out on a solo fishing trip. Not surprisingly, the story was a little hard to believe, especially when the White House was unable to produce a photo of said rabid rabbit. Bellows had the solution: He ran a large blank rectangle on the front page of the Herald Examiner, above the fold, with a tiny caption that said something like, "This space reserved for photo of rabbit when it is released by the White House." Absolutely hilarious—the best use of white space on a newspaper front page ever. I still have a copy somewhere.