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Jim Talley: On a Mission to Inform

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During his time as owner, editor, and publisher of the Brooksville Sun Journal, James (Jim) Talley had one goal and mission in mind.

“My father loved Brooksville. He loved the people,” Jay Talley said of his father, who died at age 84 at his Tampa home, January 12. “He wanted the entire Hernando County area to be educated and informed, to advance them in some way.”

Before Talley purchased the Brooksville Sun Journal in 1964, the paper was known primarily as a journal in which gossip and gardening became front-page fodder.

“Talley, though, came to Brooksville with a mission to modernize the production of the paper, its journalistic approach, and the town it served,” wrote Dan DeWitt in the Tampa Bay Times ( https://www.tampabay.com/archive/1992/06/23/sun-journal-wasn-t-big-it-was-intimate). “If the paper ever had a golden age, it is generally agreed that it was during his tenure.”

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Jay Talley says that, when his father brought their family from their native Tennessee to take the reins of the Sun Journal and settle anew in Brooksville, his father had one mission in mind.

“At the time, he didn’t know a lot about Brooksville,” said Talley. “He found the challenge of a newspaper to be new and exciting.”

James Talley acquired a newer, faster printing press for the newspaper, and relocated to a new office. He himself assumed the majority of reporting and photography duties during his early days at the paper. He also adopted a new and more comprehensive editorial focus.

“His goal was to report the news as clearly and accurately as possible,” said Jay Talley. “He wanted to cover all the things going on in the community, including politics, and with every story, he always answered the 5 Ws and the H–who, what, where, when, why, and how. He wanted to cover the full breadth of what was going on, at the city, county, and state.”

And in the process, James Talley fell in love with Brooksville.

“He was active in the church and in many organizations,” said Jay Talley, who himself sometimes came into the Sun Journal office to assist with paper production. “He really wanted to get to the pulse of the community.”

Talley’s time at the Brooksville Sun-Journal was one milestone in a long and auspicious career of this pioneering journalist, who graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in journalism and edited the school newspaper his senior year.  He served as a reporter in the Nashville Tennessean and the Dyersburg State Gazette before relocating to Brooksville, where he evolved the Brooksville Sun Journal from a weekly to a triweekly newspaper before selling it to Gannett in 1973. 

After moving his family to New Jersey for two years and working for the National Courier, the Talleys returned to Brooksville before relocating again to Tampa, where he served as the editorial editor of The Tampa Times (a onetime afternoon edition of The Tampa Tribune) and wrote many supportive articles on behalf of the developing Moffitt Cancer Center. He also worked for The Tampa Tribune and The Daytona News Journal.

After exiting the newspaper business, he served as an executive at St. Petersburg Junior College and in 1989 founded his own newsletter and lobbying business to advocate for junior colleges throughout the state.

“Through the years, he won more awards than I can name,” said Jay Talley.

Talley’s love for journalism, says his son, was surpassed only by his love for God and family.

“He was a loving dad who loved his family and community,” he said. “And he loved God.”

Talley is survived by his loving wife of 63 years, Carolyn Crenshaw Talley; daughter, Carmen Crenshaw Talley McGraw; son, James Milton Talley Jr (Jay); daughter, Carol Talley Murphy; 7 grandchildren; 2 grandchildren; and 1 great-grandchild. And, says Jay, he attended Brooksville United Methodist Church and wrote the book Jesus: The Bread of Life.

“He walked with the Lord,” said Talley.

And with the Hernando community.  

“Dad was always a strong advocate for the Hernando County community, and always had relationships with our representatives in Tallahassee as to any legislation that affected the area.  He knew how to work a room.  He’d greet and speak with everyone in a gathering of people,” said Jay Talley.  “At times, we laughingly talked about how he had missed his calling as a politician.  His columns and work did have influence, so as it turned out, he was able to be both newspaperman and (unelected) politician.”   

And a community hero.

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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