Honolulu journalist Jim Borg, who authored two books and possessed a deep love and understanding of science, died last week at the age of 69.
“Jim was a versatile and valuable part of the Star-Advertiser staff,” said Frank Bridgewater, retired Honolulu Star-Advertiser editor. “As a preeminent science reporter, he could skillfully turn complex science news into easily understandable stories. He also provided a steady hand as an editor on the city desk.”
Borg died in his Waikiki apartment sometime late Monday or early Tuesday.
“Jim had a long and distinguished career in Hawaii journalism, working for the Advertiser, Star-Bulletin and Star-Advertiser for more than four decades before retiring in 2018,” said Star-Advertiser Deputy Editor Ed Lynch.
“Jim was also a true Renaissance man, authoring two books — ‘Tigers of the Sea: Hawaii’s Deadly Sharks,’ and co-writing former U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka’s memoir, ‘One Voice: My Life, Times and Hopes for Hawaii’ — and earning black belts in taekwondo and hapkido.”
Borg worked at two mainland newspapers as a reporter in the 1970s before coming to Hawaii.
He was hired in 1979 by the Honolulu Advertiser, where he worked until 1991. That same year, he was awarded an American Association for the Advancement of Science Westinghouse Award for his newspaper series on tsunamis.
Borg was editor of Hawaii magazine from 1994 to 1997 and in 2001 joined the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, where he served as copy editor, reporter and city desk editor.
He also was a journalism lecturer at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and served as an adviser for the Ka Leo student newspaper at UH in the early 1990s.
At the time of his death, he was working as copy editor for Yonhap, an English-language Korean daily newspaper, editing copy for its Washington, D.C., bureau correspondent, according to his former wife, Ann Botticelli, with whom he had two children.
“He was a very smart guy, incredibly curious and funny,” she said.
Borg received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1973 and a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University in 1976. Botticelli said a highlight of his career was the year he spent, from 1986 to 1987, as a science journalism fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Borg, in turn, took the time to mentor budding journalists.
Former newspaper colleague Michael Tsai, an assistant professor of English at Kapiolani Community College, called Borg his mentor, friend and former editor.
“Jim was a gifted writer and an editor who elevated the work of everyone who worked under him,” Tsai wrote in a Facebook post. “He was also adventurous, kind-hearted, funny and smart as hell.”
Just out of college, Tsai wrote freelance articles for Hawaii magazine. “(Borg) edited my pieces carefully and with sensitivity for the voice I was trying to develop. Afterward, out of simple generosity, he’d go over his edits with me, patiently explaining the implications of word choice, management of information and contextualization while also introducing me to some of the nuances of journalistic storytelling, of which he was a master.
“Those lessons stayed with me my entire career as a reporter and even now as English teacher.”
Borg was born Sept. 15, 1951, in San Diego. He was the son of Sarah Cooper Borg and his adoptive father, Charles A. Borg. Charles Borg’s work as a high-ranking diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service and allowed the younger Borg to experience life in places across the globe, including Sweden, where he graduated from high school, Berlin and Japan.
“That’s what made him so interested and interesting,” Botticelli said.
Longtime friend and Star-Advertiser colleague Mary Poole said, “He was funny. He was entertaining and he could write brilliantly. I’m going to miss him.”
Robert Hollis, who was hired in 1979 as a reporter with Borg, maintained a close friendship and last saw him in June in Orinda, Calif. “Despite his ups and downs, and bumps along the road, he never lost his delightful sense of self- deprecating humor,” he said.
Borg often shared his enthusiasm for astronomy and space with the newsroom night crew, even after he retired, sending reminders of opportunities to glimpse the orbiting International Space Station, a lunar eclipse and other phenomena.
As an athlete, he excelled in gymnastics at UCSB, where he was an NCAA competitor on the high bar.
In addition to martial arts, he enjoyed swimming at Kaimana Beach and ran marathons.
Borg is survived by daughter Rachel Borg, son Mackey, sister Marcy Borg Schuler, half-brother James Flores and stepmother Charlotte Flores. He also is predeceased by father James Rudolph “Rudy” Flores.