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Cal Bollwinkel 

Paul Thompson
"Where the news came first."

(Copy by Jim Drennan)

Paul Thompson was someone who gave the lie to the old canard that “Good guys finish last.” Paul finished first in so many ways. For one thing, he’s the guy who as much as anybody made KCRA “where the news comes first.”

Paul passed away on July 13 at the age of 93. He is survived by three daughters, seven grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

He was born in Harlowtown, Montana, in 1922, and moved with his parents as an infant to Chico. His daughter Sandy recalls that he “grew to be an adventurous and industrious young man who often played in Bidwell Park and had his own paper route.” During high school he earned his first journalism job as a sports reporter for the Chico Record, advancing in succession to sports editor and columnist, police reporter and city editor. Then came World War II, in which Paul served as an Army battalion sergeant major until 1946. He served two years in Europe, and was a leading flag bearer in the streets of Paris at war’s end.

Back in the states, Paul married Dorothy Jean Taylor, with whom he raised three daughters: Linda, Nancy and Sandra. From 1948 to 1961 Paul was a city editor and wire editor for the Sacramento Union/Vallejo Union. According to Stan Atkinson, it was in the early sixties that he “harangued” Paul about going to see KCRA owner Bob Kelly about going to work in TV. Stan succeeded in his recruiting mission and recalls how “horrified” Paul was about the lack of discipline in a TV newsroom, pushing everything to deadlines, every show crisis-driven. “We retrained him, though,” Stanley recalls.

He was at KCRA as news manager until 1976, and created or helped create a number of news features such as “On the Go,” “Call 3 for Action” and “Weeknight.” He also created careers, giving many people their start in the industry. “Imagine the quintessential news director,” says one-time KCRA reporter/producer Steve LaRosa. That was Paul. Central Casting couldn’t beat him. He lived and breathed the news.” LaRosa was one of dozens of people Paul introduced to the business; he was working the switchboard and driving a delivery truck when Paul spotted his talent. Another was Joan Lunden, whom Paul hired in the early seventies. Paul said Joan didn’t have any experience and was attractive, but it was her determination to break into the TV business that got his attention. She worked as a reporter, anchor and producer. Thompson always felt that Lunden was resourceful, so he created an innovative consumer beat for her. She attacked the assignment enthusiastically, enrolling in consumer classes at a local college and amassing two filing cabinets with information. Joan left Sacramento in 1975 for New York, joining WABC News and later becoming a regular on Good Morning America.

Paul left Sacramento for Denver in 1976, where he was news director at KMGH. In April 1979, he returned to Sacramento, this time to KOVR where he was news editor. In 1985-86 he was a consultant for KCPM in Chico, creating its news department. He retired in 1987.

Of his KCRA days, Paul once said that working there meant getting gray hair, hard labor, sleepless nights, anchor ego-it is, severe depression, extreme happiness, lifelong contempt for news consultants, great joy in talent development, and terrific lunches.

His love of gardening, books, crossword puzzles, sports and spending time with friends and family filled his retirement years. Daughter Sandy sums up his life this way: “Paul was a remarkable man full of care, generosity, humor and stories who will be deeply missed by all who knew him.”



last edited 2 Aug 2015