Jim Hayes dies at 88; former journalism professor, writing coach

Jim Hayes dies at 88; former journalism professor, writing coach
Jim Hayes is shown in May 2011 at his grandson's wedding in Tulum, Mexico. (Cade Palmer)

Jim Hayes, a journalism professor and writing coach who nurtured generations of reporters at media organizations across the United States, has died. He was 88.

Hayes died Tuesday afternoon at his home in Los Osos from complications due to cancer, daughter Kelly Hayes told the Los Angeles Times. His wife, Ellen Hayes, and other family members were by his side.


The son of a newspaper editor, Hayes became a reporter and editor and worked at newspapers in California, Arizona, Minnesota and Washington, D.C.

He taught journalism at American University in Egypt in the 1960s before becoming a journalism professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1969. He retired from the university in 1992.

Hayes was also a writing coach for news organizations, including The Times.

"In every era, he had a different collection of students and friends," Kelly Hayes said. "He had a way of adapting."

Daughter Dayle Hayes began chronicling her father's declining health on Facebook after doctors detected a mass on his brain earlier this year.

His two Facebook pages are filled with tributes from former students who credit Hayes with teaching them how to think, write and tell a good story.

"During one of your classes … while we were reviewing coverage of some current disaster, you had us pass around a list of the victims and read off the names of the dead. The lesson -- to think and feel beyond the body count -- stuck with me from there forward," a former Cal Poly student wrote.

Other former students recall how Hayes stressed accuracy and would hand down an "F" for being careless.

"Mr. Hayes told me to check your facts," a former student said. "Always. Because some people really do spell their name 'Joens.' If you can't get that right, why should anybody trust you to get the school board budget right or what the police say the guy did or what the farmer really did say about his crops?"

Hayes is survived by his wife; daughters Dayle and Kelly; sons Joshua, Jason and Patrick, and five grandchildren.

Family members said memorial services are being planned and asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Jim Hayes Journalism Scholarship Fund at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

On Tuesday evening, the flag at his home was flying at half-staff.

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