Jim Harriott: Life Before and After Seattle

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Jim Harriott, KOMO in 1986

Jim Harriott (real name William James Harriott) is best known for his time as a TV news anchor, with the majority of those years spent at Seattle-Tacoma television stations KING, KIRO and KOMO. It’s lesser known, but newspaper clippings of the time confirm that he also worked at KCPQ. Furthermore, Jim’s daughter, who checked in with us here at Puget Sound Media, reports that for six months her dad commuted from Seattle to Portland — where he worked at KATU, a public TV station. Legalities, involving his move across town from KING to KIRO, made this brief detour necessary. In Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, Jim Harriott will be long remembered as a prominent television anchor/newscaster; however, with a bit of investigation, we find that his roots were firmly grounded in radio.

Harriott had a well-rounded and diverse education: Degrees from both New York University and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. As a young man, he chose to pursue a career in broadcasting. Harriott’s first radio job was in Florida, but it didn’t take long for him to work his way up to The Big Apple — the country’s #1 radio and TV market. In 1960, Harriott was hired to be one of the original WMCA Good Guys.  He worked nights. The station needed a night deejay, so Jim obliged management, but his interest was gravitating toward the news room versus spinning pop music records. At WMCA, along with his being a DJ, Jim developed his skills as a newsman.

 

In 1963, Harriott stepped up in the world: He took a job as a national reporter and presenter for the ABC radio network. Harriott was regularly heard on ABC’s Flair Reports — this program was broadcast nationwide, including on the legendary ABC flagship station WABC in NYC.  Other well-known broadcasters, who contributed to Flair Reports, were Ted Koppel and Charles Osgood. In this same time frame, Harriott anchored ABC News Around the World — a regularly scheduled news broadcast that was heard in cities across America.

WCBS employment: In reviewing Jim Harriott’s published work experience, it becomes apparent that sometime during his ABC network years (1963-1967), he was on the staff as a news anchor at WCBS Newsradio 88 in NYC. That WCBS job is often omitted from his resume, but the 50 year-old aircheck below this article confirms that Harriott was employed by WCBS.

Miss Monitor, Tedi Thurman

The NBC Radio Network hired Harriott in 1968. His duties included anchoring NBC Monitor — a weekend feature that ran for multiple hours at a time. Monitor first ran in 1955 and its content included news, interviews, comedy, music, sports, etc. Big names of the era appeared on the program: Dave Garroway, Morgan Beatty, Hugh Downs, John Cameron Swayze, David Brinkley, Art Buchwald, Ed McMahon, Durward Kirby, Garry Moore, Murray the K, Bill Cullen, Don Imus and Wolfman Jack. The guests were impressive names as well: Marilyn Monroe, Jonathan Winters, Phyllis Diller, Bob Hope, Marlene Dietrich, Bob Newhart, and Ernie Kovacs among others. One of the beloved characters was Miss Monitor — a sultry and sexy weather lady. NBC Monitor was on-the-air for nearly 20 years, it was cancelled a few years after Jim had left the network.

Harriott took the leap from radio into television in 1971, when he accepted the anchor position at KING-TV in Seattle. Jean Enersen, a perennial local favorite, joined Jim as co-anchor in 1972. When KCPQ-TV in Tacoma went P.B.S. for awhile, he was hired as public affairs director/news in Dec 1975 with debut on-the-air in January 1976.  About six months later, Jim was hired to anchor KIRO-TV news in Seattle. Harriott’s next stop, after his employment at KIRO for just over one year, was KOMO-TV in Seattle as executive news director and anchor. The late Kathy Goertzen became co-anchor in 1983. In total, Jim Harriott was a TV news anchor in the Seattle-Tacoma market for nearly 17 years. In 1987, he accepted the news anchor job at WJLA-TV in Washington D.C.  Jim occupied that position for 12 years, leaving it in the fall of ’99.

Jean Enersen and Jim Harriott, KING TV ad

Harriott, a four-time Emmy award winner for excellence in television news, led a productive life in broadcasting. In addition to his successes in TV and radio, he appeared in two major motion pictures — the 1983 blockbuster WarGames (starring Mathew Broderick and Ally Sheedy), and the 1974 Seattle cop film McQ (starring John Wayne).  In both films Harriott played a TV news anchor. In the early ‘80s, he was a substitute host for radio commentator, Paul Harvey. After Harriott’s retirement from commercial broadcasting, he anchored the Voice of America daily shortwave transmissions. Until his passing, Jim was the host of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) podcast.  In 2007, William James Harriott died as a result of complications related to a stroke. He was 71 years of age.

Anyone, who saw and heard Jim Harriott on TV, will find the airchecks of his 1960s era radio days interesting. These recordings date back 50 years or more.

2 tracks, 2.5 min. each: #1 ABC Flair Reports (1964); #2 NBC Monitor (12/31/68)

1 track, less than 1 min. WCBS Newsradio 88 (August ’67)

1 track, 14 min., nostalgic: Anchoring ABC News Around the World (July 29, 1967)

Jim Harriott was a television news anchor in Seattle for much of his working life. Therefore, it seems only fitting to post a video of Jim on Seattle TV. Here’s a short KOMO clip from July 4, 1986. His co-anchor is the late Kathy Goertzen.

 

If this post was interesting to you, here’s a link to a related story about another former Seattle TV news anchor: Stand by on the Set…for Bill Brubaker

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Author: Steven Smith

Presently editor and historical writer with Puget Sound Media in Seattle. Former radio broadcaster and radio station owner, 1970-1999. Journalism and speech communications degrees. I enjoy researching articles and online reporting that allows me to meld together words, audio and video. P.S. I appreciate and encourage reader comments and opinions.

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