Former KCRA Assignment Editor Jim Drennan Signs Off at the Age of 86

By: Joyce Mitchell


In a quiet, poetic way, Jim Drennan was a force of nature. He had the strength to calmly manage the whirlwind that comes with overseeing newsrooms and assignment desks. Drennan signed off August 30, 2022 after a brief illness. His death is mourned by the Sacramento television community.

Drennan knew at the age of eleven that he was going to be a journalist. That’s when he earned his first byline in his Bakersfield school newspaper. Born in 1936, Drennan went on to graduate from San Jose University, studying journalism.

Following a two-year stint in the military, Drennan embarked upon a career in newspaper reporting in Madera and then Reno. In 1967, he bravely jumped into TV, becoming news director at KOLO in Reno. A couple of years later, Drennan joined KXTV in Sacramento as news director where he stayed a decade. Then it was on to KCRA Channel 3 as assignment editor/manager and he remained until his retirement in 1993.

An article written about Drennan back in 1972 refers to him as a face-paced man who likes “warmth and authority” in newscasting. He became an intricate part of the development of early TV news days. “These people who come into our living rooms are like an interesting guest who comes in and tells you what happened,” said Drennan in the story. In other words, he said that people must relate to talent, and invite them into their homes as they deliver the news.

Drennan oversaw the transition from film to videotape, a huge development back in the day that changed the TV world as we know it. “The other looming thing in the future is portable videotape,” Drennan is quoted as saying. “I think there’s going to be a battle between super-eight and portable videotape in the next decade or so.”

And was Drennan ever right. He lived to experience a great deal of change in the industry he loved and knew so very well. He also said it again and again – that TV is only as good as the story told. And that made him an excellent assignment editor and newsman. He always found the heart of the story – whether it was produced via film or videotape.

Drennan never stopped for a second after leaving TV. He eventually stepped in to lead Valley Broadcast Legends (VBL), a Sacramento based social club modeled after San Francisco Bay Area Legends – but perhaps even a bit more self-deprecating. As president of VBL, he always had a message in the newsletter to members about what was going on and planned excellent and relevant speakers. The organization lead the way for fun and fellowship for Sacramento’s veteran radio and television professionals.

He also volunteered with the Alzheimer’s Association after dementia claimed the lives of both his mother and partner Kenny Matsumoto. Drennan and Matsumoro had been together 46-years. Matsumoto died in 2019.

During Drennan’s final days, the TV set in his suite at an assisted living facility stayed tuned to news. He was glued to the headlines until the very end of his life. He was a true journalist.

A memorial service was held for Drennan September 22, 2022 by VBL at Sacramento Memorial Lawn. As in full Drennan-style, it was light-hearted, left people smiling about a life well-lived, a life that exuded “warmth and authority.”