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.