Of all the qualities and personality traits I will miss about Paul Crawley, I will miss one the most:
He is, every day, on time for work.
More than that, he is early for work.
Rare is the day at 11Alive when our 9:30 morning meeting actually begins at 9:30. Typically it kicks off at 9:35 with a sparse crowd in attendance, and then most reporters arrive in the next 5-10 minutes. They can show up a little late because they generally remain secure in the fact that (A) they will still have a job tomorrow, and (B) as long as they show up with strong story pitches, all will be forgiven.
Paul Crawley plays by the same rules, and given his longevity and continued value to the station, he could probably get away with pulling into the 11Alive parking lot at 10 AM each day.
But he shows up before 10, and even before 9.
Crawley arrives at 8:45 AM every morning. He then spends the next 45 minutes making calls, scouring local media web sites across metro Atlanta, and filling up a notepad page with potential stories for the coming day.
Not surprisingly, he almost always contributes more story ideas than anyone else at the table.
On July 31st, Crawley will retire from WXIA-TV in Atlanta after 36 years at the station — and more than four decades in the industry. He has won seven regional Emmys and an Edward R. Murrow award, covered just about every beat imaginable, and recently volunteered to become a backpack journalist … after three decades of working as a traditional reporter.
Crawley is my latest guest on the Telling The Story podcast.
This marks the 20th episode of the podcast, and I cannot recall a conversation I enjoyed quite like this. Crawley is by nature a terrific storyteller (a job title he prefers to “reporter”, which he describes as “too lofty”), and we had an insightful conversation about his career as a journalist, the evolution of the business, and his greatest lessons and advice.
And even on the eve of his retirement — for which, Crawley simply says, he is “ready” — he still cannot hide his enthusiasm for his job.
Many journalists begin their careers as general assignment reporters but ultimately aspire to more specific goals. Some aim to do investigative work; some want to cover politics; others long to tell emotional feature stories. The allure of these specialties is not just the promise of expertise on a given subject matter; it is the potential for some semblance of predictability in a haphazard industry.
Crawley is the opposite. He, more than any of my co-workers at 11Alive, lives for the day-to-day challenge of general assignment reporting. He builds up a daily war chest of story ideas; he stays on top of virtually every major Atlanta story and serves as a one-man Georgia history book; and he relishes the unlimited possibilities of where his day might take him.
And he shows up nearly an hour early for work, every day.
He does not have to, but he does — and our newsroom is stronger because of it.
Matt Pearl is the author of the Telling the Story blog and podcast. Feel free to comment below or e-mail Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.