CLASS OF 1980
James McGaffin was only part-time and alone in the newsroom that Sunday morning in 1941 when he witnessed the Pearl Harbor bulletin cross on the news wires. He joined the Army six months later serving as a news writer for military stations broadcasting to American troops in North Africa. He returned to WOW after the war in 1946 serving 44 years at the station before retirement.
McGaffin was promoted from reporter to news director for both WOW AM and the just-established WOW-TV by 1950.
He was instrumental in both the AM and TV coverage of the Omaha 1952 flood. His news staff picked up the flood in North Dakota following it southward with airplanes, cars, and a helicopter, reporting by telephone, averaging about eighteen reports a day.
While McGaffin was working in commercial broadcasting, he was appointed to serve on the Nebraska Educational Television Commission, which operated a nine-station non-commercial television network. He later was elected chair of the NET Commission.
McGaffin also was the president of the Nebraska Associated Press Broadcast News Association and the president of the Nebraska United Press International News Association.
As chair of the Nebraska Broadcasters Association’s Freedom of Information Committee, McGaffin represented broadcasters during the development of legislation which resulted in the Nebraska Open Meetings, Nebraska Open Records and the Nebraska Free Flow of Information Act (Shield Law protecting reporter’s sources). He also served on the media committee, which drafted the Nebraska Bar-Press Guidelines calling for responsible reporting to avoid prejudicial references.
More awards followed. The Nebraska Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists named McGaffin Journalist of the Year. The University of Nebraska at Omaha honored McGaffin with the Communication Achievement Award and Creighton University recognized him with the Professional Journalism Achievement Award.
McGaffin left the news director position in 1968 to become Public Affairs Director for the WOW stations. He retired in 1984.
James McGaffin passed away in 1985.