Travels with Jim Compton: Ethiopia

We lost a friend last week – Jim Compton.

I worked with Jim at KING TV for many years. In 1999 Jim traveled with Janda Black and myself to Ethiopia to shoot a piece for the Packard Foundation.  Our task was to show the challenges the country was facing with family planning programs.  It was my first trip to Africa – Jim had been there before during his years as a correspondent for NBC. It was a long trip, three weeks as I recall. We covered a lot of ground, talked to a lot of people and got pretty sunburned, especially Jim.  I will admit that your first trip to a place like that is a pretty eye opening experience. I probably kept my eye on the ball only because of Jim’s gentle nature.  In the worst of moments, he just made it all seem like it would work out. I also totally trusted his ability to tell the story even if I could only pay attention to the pictures.

He saved me on our last night there. We were the Minister of Health’s guests at this lavish dinner, along with the “special dancers”. The Deputy Minister asked me to dance – all of the guys in Ethiopia dance together. We were the first ones on the floor. That poor little guy had never seen such bad moves. I must have looked like a frog in a blender; I just could not get into the groove of that funky Ethiopian tune. Jim cut in and ended what could have been an international incident. The best part is he never mentioned it again.

This is the story we made for the Lehrer News Hour on PBS. It’s a classic example of Jim’s writing and delivery. We’re going to miss him.