Courier-Journal suffers major blow with losses of Eric Crawford and Rick Bozich

I’ve often wondered whether the publication would survive without them. Now we’re about to find out.

During all the recent personnel cutbacks at the Courier-Journal in recent years, the management always recognized the value of sports columnists Eric Crawford and Rich Bozich, with their years of experience and insight into the local sports scene. They were close to being indispensable.

The C-J announced Monday that Crawford and Bozich are both leaving to accept positions at WDRB TV. Huge blow, a double whammy for the company, losses from which the newspaper won’t soon recover.

Sports fans will lose, too. TV coverage, because of time constraints, will never ever provide the depth and breadth of print media. The two will probably enhance WDRB’s Internet presence but who wants to turn on a computer before consuming the sports news with their bacon and eggs.

Crawford, in particular, is among the best ever at C-J, which has had some exceptional writers. Like Dave Kindred, one of his noted predecessors, he is blessed with an intellect to examine highly complex issues, ably sharing his knowledge. As a result, his readers are better informed than the average sports fan. I’ve never sensed any bias when it comes to issues involving either the universities of Louisville or Kentucky. He seems to care deeply for both of them, wanting them to succeed.

Bozich is as much a reporter as a columnist, more of an analyst than a provider of solutions. I’ve never sensed any special affection for either university, covering them equally and objectively, depending on the issue, as any journalism professional would approach the task. This is the approach in a recent column that enabled him to deal effectively with the back and forth pettiness between John Calipari and Rick Pitino.

For me, most of the stories in the sports section get a glimpse and a quick turn of the page, unless they are U of L related. But the columns of Eric Crawford and Rick Bozich were must reading. They have always been responsive to readers as well, open and generous with their feedback, especially Crawford.

Their leaving says much about the state of Louisville’s daily newspaper.

Eric Crawford blog

Creig Ewing new sports editor at Courier-Journal

The Courier-Journal has yet to make an announcement, possibly out of respect for the 19 members of the editorial staff who took early retirement Thursday.

Creig Ewing has been named the new executive sports editor. Possibly an encouraging sign for Charlie Strong, Ewing also hailing from deep in the heart of football country.

A graduate of the University of Central Florida where he graduated magna cum laude and majored in English and English Literature, Ewing joined the C-J in 1998 as assistant sports editor.  Before that he held a similar post at the Orlando Sentinel, where he had worked since 1983 coving high school, college and professional sports.

Ewing succeeds Harry Bryan who held the position 24 of his 36 years at the Courier-Journal.

Other early retirees from the editorial staff, according to an Eric Crawford post on Facebook, were:  Pam Spaulding, Mark Provano, Mike Upsall, Arlene Jacobson, Pat O’Connor, Roy Walter,  Joe Baldwin, Carolyn Yetter, Keith Runyon, Steve Ford, Ben Hershberg, Larry Muhammad, Ken Neuhauser, Patrick Howington, Dale Moss, Ralph Dunlop, Ric Manning and Ed O’Donoghue

Favorite columnist survives another round of Courier-Journal layoffs

Fifty more people, most of them from the news room, have been laid off by the Courier-Journal in the latest round of cuts by the Gannett Corporation. That brings the number to 145 since 2008.

Never good when people lose their jobs but there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of sympathy in the community for a publication that once seemed invincible during economic downturns.

Eric Crawford (Card Game photo)

Certainly not from University of Louisville fans who have tolerated the overabundance of University of Kentucky coverage for decades, often at the expense of the local university. And definitely not from the fiscally and politically moderate and conservative readers who have been forcefed the liberal bent of the news coverage and opinion pages.

The first person who comes to the oberver’s mind during each of these layoff announcements is sports columnist Eric Crawford. There’s always a sense of relief when his name is not on the list.

The son of former WHAS-TV reporter and CJ columnist Byron Crawford, Eric is arguably the best sportswriter and analyst the newspaper has had since the days of Dave Kindred. He consistently does his research while providing balance and introspective into most issues.

Crawford admitted to me once that he grew up a Kentucky fan in Shelby County, but he has never shown any reluctance to take on Big Blue partisans — or U of L fanatics for that matter — when their institution is on the wrong side of an issue. He challenged, for example, the wisdom of hiring John Calipari when the background was clearly questionable.

We did wonder, however, why he would side with UK against the NCAA on the premature celebration of Calipari’s “500th win” when 42 of those “wins” had been vacated by the governing organization. But for the most part, Crawford is about as objective as they come.

The Courier-Journal/Gannett would be foolish to lay off a personality like Crawford and we don’t honestly expect to see his name on the layoff list anytime soon. If there is one, he would be the indispensable asset, at least for now with the importance of sports in the editorial mix.

But as the number of pages in daily newspapers diminish, along with the width and length of those pages, Crawford has to be thinking about where all of this is leading. The future isn’t great, even for the online edition of the publication. The personal dynamics of his chosen profession are changing in ways he never could have imagined a few years ago, and they are changing very quickly

As he notes in his blog today, “Newspapers are down three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and the clock is ticking.” Eric is too creative, talented, responsible and savvy not to have a more secure future elsewhere. We will continue to enjoy reading his column for now, and wish him well, now and in the future.

Dismissed U of L assistant knew how to work the system

Some writers with an unbridled sense of loyalty to the University of Kentucky have opted to make a big deal of a $371,000 judgment against the University of Louisville, as a result of lawsuit filed by a former female track assistant fired by the Athletic Department.

Mary Banker, now reportedly working as a waitress.

  • The jury rejected her claim that she was working in a hostile workplace.
  • The judge threw out her claim of gender discrimination.

In other words, the trial determined she was not a victim of sexual harassment.

I was disappointed that Larry Vaught, a columnist with the Danville Advocate, would turn his space over to an aspiring writer to lump this case in with a myriad of other issues, implying that Tom Jurich was somehow at fault. Link

Not very surprising was that a local lawyer with a UK blog would attack the local media for not reporting on a “sexual harassment” lawsuit. Where did he get his law degree anyway?

Eric Crawford does his customary great job of putting things in perspective on his blog. He does, however, give too much credence to her argument of male athletes sometimes being compared to parts of the female anatomy. And if suggesting that someone make cookies or coffee is sometimes helpful, so be it, male or female. [Crawford’s post was removed from the web site by the Courier-Journal when he left the newspaper in 2012.]

What it boiled down to was how Banker was managed after filing a complaint with the U of L’s Human Resources Department. The Athletic Department terminated her a while later. As a result, some interpret the dismissal as a response to her complaint.

If there was a mistake on U of L’s part, it was not in firing her long before she went to the Human Resources Department. A crafty tactical move on her part.

She knows how to work the system. [Or maybe not. The financial judgment was later overturned by an appeals court.]

CJ Sports Editor Replies To Reader

Eric Crawford may be one of the best sports columnists to ever write for the Courier-Journal so any criticism of the CJ here really doesn’t apply to him.

That out of the way, the observer abhors giving the local newspaper more exposure, but sports editor Harry Bryan did respond to one of our readers about the lack of coverage of the University of Louisville baseball team this past weekend. Thanks to Ron T. for providing a copy of Bryan’s response:

“Thanks for the e-mail. I am sorry you were unhappy with our coverage of the U of L baseball team this weekend. We did provide coverage, although we do not travel with U of L non-revenue sports teams in the regular season.

“However, we certainly haven’t been ignoring the team. U of L baseball has been on the front page four times in the past two weeks, and as the team heads into the postseason, you’ll be seeing more. We had two writers at practice today working on stories in advance of the Big East tournament. We will carry results from the tournament and we will pick up the pace in the NCAA tournament.

“I realize that U of L baseball is picking up a following, and it is certainly deserving. Coach McDonnell has done a great job there, and our increased coverage over the past few years is a reflection of that. However, our coverage is based at least partly on fan interest, and attendance figures indicate to me that there is still some progress to be made in that area before we start increasing staffing even more.

“The fact is that U of L spring sports in general are much improved — we also have a track story planned for later in the week looking ahead to the NCAA meets — and we look forward to increasing our coverage as the teams continue to improve and build even stronger fan bases.

Thanks again for writing.”

Harry Bryan
Sports Editor