Even the dean of the Capitol press corps is not above a selfie.
Flagpole readers have by now noted with concern the absence of Tom Crawford’s Georgia Report, his column (formerly titled Capitol Impact) that has informed our readers about goings-on in state government every week for the last 12 years.
We got a terse email from Tom a couple of weeks ago that he would have to suspend the column for a while because of medical issues. Soon came the sad announcement: “I am, unfortunately, in the final stages of cancer and am under home hospice care. For that reason, we are suspending operation of The Georgia Report after more than 18 years of publication. I appreciate the support of all our readers. It has been quite a ride. Thank you all very much. Your friend and editor, Tom Crawford.”
Up through last week, Tom was receiving a stream of old friends and enjoying conversing with them; they reported that he was alert and engaged, though “diminished.”
Tom Crawford would have lots of good friends had his career been in a car wash or a law firm, but his being a journalist gives added depth to those workplace bonds. Toiling together in a daily newsroom forges friendships. The odd hours, the low pay, the constant deadline pressure, the imperative to get it quickly and get it right, even when it’s unfavorable to a government official who plays golf with your boss, are just a few aspects of the job that make you love your fellow sufferers.
Tom’s knack for friendship was always in evidence whenever he came to Athens. He made sure to line up lunch or supper with those of us who cover government here, and he wanted to know what was happening in our lives and in Athens.
Tom came up through the ranks. He edited The Red & Black, graduated from the Grady College, worked for the Marietta Daily Journal, the Montgomery Advertiser and The Atlanta Journal. Then, he made a detour into public relations, working with old friends from journalism, and he finally created Capitol Impact/Georgia Report, covering Georgia government and politics from his catbird seat under the gold dome itself.
Tom was ahead of the curve in creating his own niche while his old world of newspapering collapsed. He maintained a news service for subscribers who for business and political reasons need to know what’s going on in government, and he cobbled together a network of around 30 Georgia newspapers, large and small, which, like Flagpole, ran his column every week. Many of those papers are in areas where there is no other coverage of state government. Georgia Report was all they had. There he was, this highly experienced and well connected journalist, reporting from the corridors of power and read all over Georgia every week. Plus, he was his own boss and he didn’t play golf with anybody.
Tom Crawford earned the freedom to tell us exactly what he saw up close in the Capitol, no matter whom he might offend—the governor, the lieutenant governor, the speaker of the house, Georgia Power, Delta. Tom never pulled his punches, and it’s surprising that he didn’t get punched, because he worked daily at the Capitol, surrounded by all the people he scrutinized—powerful people who might not like the truths he spoke.
His old friends can explain it, but the guess here is that even the sorriest politician had to respect Tom for his professionalism and his equal-opportunity, non-partisan reporting. He had been around the Capitol longer than any of them. He knew more than they did, and in that world of scheming and inflated egos, Tom had nothing to prove. Anyway, who could hate him?
Tom is irreplaceable to his wife and son and to all his dear friends. He also leaves an irreparable gap in the coverage of the government and politics emanating from our state Capitol. He created a new kind of journalism, proof against the crash of the corporate model—the independent observer who saw government clearly and saw it whole.
Tom has agreed to donate more than two decades’ worth of his work to the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies at UGA, where it will be available to students and others.
Among Tom’s friends are many with the experience, contacts and abilities to step into this void and carry Georgia Report forward. For all the many and various obvious reasons, probably nobody will. But here’s hoping, you guys.