Magazine article Editor & Publisher

MRE's Crawley Was a Newsman and a Gentleman

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

MRE's Crawley Was a Newsman and a Gentleman

Article excerpt

When James Crawley got word in late November that he would be out as Media General's military affairs writer, that was the least of his worries.

Soon after finding out he was being bumped from the beat he had held at two different news outlets since 1994, due to a shake-up at Media General's Washington, D.C., bureau, Crawley got worse news: he had inoperable brain cancer.

At 51, Crawley, who also served as president of Military Reporters and Editors, was no stranger to cancer, having undergone a kidney operation in February 2007 to fight the disease. But within hours of finding out he would soon lose his job at the media chain whose newspapers include the flagship Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch, Crawley got word that results of a brain scan had come back with bad news.

"I'm under radiation treatment but it's a very stubborn cancer that is usually resistant to radiation and chemo," Crawley wrote me in a private e-mail soon afterward. "Odds are long, very long. But, I've survived a war, newspaper editors, presidential campaigns and threats from a mobster or two. So, if it can be beat I'll do my best. But, at this point, I don't want to advertise the situation or my condition. But, needless to say, it's put a damper on my job search."

That best was apparently not enough. He died Tuesday night.

In the weeks leading up to his death, Crawley was anything but a bitter or saddened figure. In several phone calls, he kept an optimistic outlook and seemed more interested in the well-being of his fellow journalists who were losing jobs than himself. He wanted no sympathy and remained adamant about keeping a positive focus.

But the cancer would not cooperate.

In the past several years, I spoke with Crawley often when issues related to Iraq coverage, Pentagon policies and embedded troops came up. Each time, he was forthcoming, candid and a great source for finding out how those covering such a difficult and controversial beat felt.

When a dispute arose in February 2007 between The New York Times and the Pentagon over publication of a photo of a wounded soldier in Iraq who later died, Crawley spoke out publicly for MRE -- as he did on so many occasions -- saying it was another reminder of how poorly many of the rules regarding embedded journalists in Iraq are structured and enforced.

"This is something that has gone on for some time and has caused problems in the past," Crawley said at that time. …

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