Tim Crews referred to himself as a cranky country publisher. He was a dogged defender of journalistic access and transparency in government. His resistance to revealing confidential sources once put him in jail for five days, and his crusades on behalf of the public led to several court battles and legal victories.
Crews was the founder, editor and publisher of the twice-weeklySacramento Valley Mirror in Glenn County, which Cal Press once dubbed“California’s most courageous newspaper.” Crews reported the hard-news stories, penned the fiery editorials, took community pictures and sold advertising. He even helped to deliver the paper. “Every week is another war,” he once said. “We struggle to pay the bills, to keep the doors open.”
Crews was born Oct. 10, 1943, in Aberdeen, Wash.,and sold sports photos to the localnewspaper as a teen. He spent three years in the Marine Corps and started attending Central Washington State College in 1963, where he studied on and off for seven years before deciding it wasn’t for him. After working for a logging company, a steel mill and in commercial fishing, he injured his back and decided to try his hand at being a journalist.
He landed his first newspaper job at the Santa BarbaraNews & Review in the mid-1970s. Later he reported in Texas,Colorado, Washington and even the Middle East before moving back to California in the 1980s.
In 1989, Crews washired as general manager and editor at the Tri-County Newspapers, which cover Willows and Orland. But he said he resigned after the vice president sided with law enforcement in a story he wrote about how the county sheriff was questionably distributing concealed carry permits.
In 1991, he began publishing the Sacramento Valley Mirror. “The reasonI’m here is that I don’t like to be run out of a place,” Crews said.“I didn’t want theseguys to run me out of town.”
As a newsman, Crews used sweat, integrity, fearlessness and the desire to find and tell the truth.When agencies would deny him records he believed the public had the right to see, he would take the agency to court. He was never intimidated bybureaucrats, powerful politicians or uncooperative police.And like any good journalist, he always protected his sources.
Crews stood up for regular people and published obituaries for free. Andhe disliked government officials who didn’t want the public to know what they were up to. He used open records to expose wrongdoing by public officials, penned countless editorials about various misdeeds and published long-form investigations about local government.
His work was both loved and loathed.“He has no friends, but he recognizes no enemies,”said Rowland “Reb” Rebele, a First Amendment supporter and former publisher. “He’s a hero for journalism everywhere.” Crews had his office burgled, his building set afire, his car’s brakes and wheels weakened to the point of failure and his dog poisoned. All of these were reported to police and sheriffs, with nothing done.
And still, he did not pull his punches.“If you go to jail in Glenn County, if you’re arrested, your name goes in the paper,”Crews told NBC News. “We report every police call. We report every accident. “We’re the paper of record here. But not everyone wants to be in the paper of record.”
Crewswasnamed Newspaper Executive of the Year in 2009 byCal Press, and he received the California News Publishers Association’s Freedom of Information Award, the California Society of Newspaper Editors’Bill Farr Award and the Hofstra University Francis Frost Wood Award for Couragein Journalism.
*Hall of Fame inductees are selected annually by a committee appointed by the California Press Foundation. They recognize career achievements of weekly and daily publishers in California who were important and influential in their era, as judged by their peers in the association. The write-ups are a historical and journalistic snapshot in time and not official biographies.*