joe crews
Joe Crews

When a fellow journalist dies, there’s an extra layer of grief on top of the ordinary sadness over the loss of a particular individual.

I feel the worrisome loss of a person who gave his life to the mission of digging up information and learning about stuff, and then making sure his fellow citizens had that information, too, so they could help keep a vibrant democracy alive.

My fretting mind wonders if we’ve done a proper job of raising a crop of youngsters who recognize the importance of this mission, and who will step up to fill the void.

I won’t pretend I knew Joe Crews well. I’ll wager that we could count on our fingers (maybe one hand) the number of people who did. He was a private person.

But I know Joe was devoted to the mission. Like most journalists I know, he was smart in the broad sense of having the capacity to learn quickly about a wide variety of topics, at least well enough to explain them to others.

I’m fond of a quip that’s attributed to Albert Einstein: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

Joe, like most journalists, spent a lot of time and brain cells trying to understand “it” well enough to explain it to the people who read what we write, all for the mighty purpose of empowering our readers to do something about it, like voting, or calling a city commissioner, or taking to the corner with a protest sign, joining up with a nonprofit to help meet a need, or simply attending an event or patronizing a business we wrote about.

That’s how we build community.

It’s a skill, and Joe had it. He likely was capable of many careers that would have done a better job of paying the bills. But, the mission calls.

Joe had high standards for journalism. He had an almost frustratingly pedantic sense of how it should be practiced, and governed himself accordingly, without a lot of concern about what his editor (me) might think.

A few days before he died, Joe told us he wanted to write a goodbye. Of course he did. Joe was a writer. We got him a computer, but, by then, he wasn’t able to do it.

We can only guess at what Joe might have written, but I think I can tell you what he would have wanted you to know. He would have wanted you to know that, curmudgeonly and judgmental and grouchy as he was (or pretended to be), he did it for you.

Nobody who can do fifth-grade math goes into journalism solely for their own good. Oh, sure, we love to see our bylines above the fold, but at the end of the day, we’re nobody without you. We do our best to write in a way that inspires and equips you to make it happen: community, democracy, activism, progress, a better future.

And I think Joe, out of character as it might seem to those who knew him, might have wanted to say thank you. Thank you for reading. Thank you for caring.

Thanks for helping keep the mission alive.


  1. Joe, just your ordinary Joe. But in the ordinaryness, was the extraordinary soul and fellow human creature who used our language to keep the conversation going among all of us fellow dwellers on the street; the streets of our little DeLand, Florida. We’ll miss him.


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