Hometown: Born in Temple, TX. But as an Army brat and preachers' kid (that's plural), he grew up Texas, Manassas, VA, and Schweinfurt, Germany.
Birthday: March 2, 1981
James stumbled into journalism when he had to pick a major while applying to the University of South Carolina. He happened to watch a documentary covering journalist Sebastian Junger's reporting on Ahmad Shah Massoud's pre-9/11 resistance against the Taliban. James thought that looked cool enough and penciled it in as a placeholder, figuring he could change his mind later if necessary.
The subject proved to be a good match, though. James started writing articles as a stringer for The State newspaper in Columbia, SC. and got more experience covering events like the Iditarod during an exchange program with the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
In 2004, he graduated and began his full-time journalism career covering the North Dakota Legislature for the Associated Press. When the session ended, he joined the Gillette (WY) News-Record as a cops and courts reporter.
James embarked on his dream of conflict reporting in January 2008 when he took a job covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for Stars and Stripes. He was embedded with American units during the 2008 Sadrist uprisings, the 2009 Iraqi provincial elections, the transition of power and other key events. During that time, he witnessed firefights, roadside bombs and both American and Iraqi casualties. He also reported on American anti-piracy efforts from Djibouti and the Gulf of Aden.
James moved to Minnesota in the summer of 2009 to be with his then-girlfriend Christa Meland, who works as research director at Twin Cities Business magazine. He married Christa on July 3, 2011, and they live together on the Hopkins-Minnetonka border.
James worked at the Stillwater Gazette and Faribault Daily News before joining Patch.
James particularly enjoys local government. Even in Iraq, he spent extensive time covering the profound impact local institutions have on communities. He is passionate about learning how governments work and educating residents about those processes and their real-life impact.
James enjoys hiking and traveling as much as possible. At home, he loves reading, playing Xbox, watching mixed martial arts and spending time with Christa and their cat Tux. He never passes up a chance to try a new beer.
At Patch, we promise always to report the facts as objectively as possible and otherwise adhere to the principles of good journalism. However, we also acknowledge that true impartiality is impossible because human beings have beliefs. So in the spirit of simple honesty, our policy is to encourage our editors to reveal their beliefs to the extent they feel comfortable. This disclosure is not a license for us to inject our beliefs into stories or to dictate coverage according to them. In fact, the intent is the opposite: we hope that the knowledge that our beliefs are on the record will cause us to be ever mindful to write, report and edit in a fair, balanced way. And if you ever see evidence that we failed in this mission, please let us know.
The strident tone of politics today scares me. Both parties oversimplify complex issues that demand nuance. I support the candidate who I feel has the most reasoned, intellectually honest problem-solving approach. This has meant voting at various times for Republicans, Democrats and even Libertarians.
I am an atheist. Although my parents are both Methodist ministers and I was raised in the church, I do not see any evidence of god in this world, especially after my experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, I have immense respect for the religious beliefs of others. Several of my most fulfilling stories have involved getting to know others' faith traditions on their terms, including Catholic, Protestant and Latter Day Saints.
Local Hot-Button Issues
How state lawmakers choose to address the state's budget deficit will have profound effects on Hopkins' schools, government, nonprofits and, of course, residents. There will be cuts — there's no way around that — the only question is where the cuts will take place and how judicious they will be.
The Southwest light-rail project will likely be a more long-term issue. With construction not scheduled to begin until 2014, it's going to be around for a while. There will almost certainly be growing pains as Hopkins ponders how best to align development with the project.
The development of Hopkins' downtown is a subset of the light-rail issue, but the area's importance to the community makes it especially likely to draw attention. The downtown can and has changed over time. In the upcoming years, Hopkins will have to find a balance between this latest round of change and maintaining the community's unique identity.