I didn’t want to be a reporter, though I do love the work. I came to the newspaper business largely by accident, during college. At the time, I wrote mostly fiction, and although I found creative nonfiction interesting, I never did take a single journalism class. It’s left me with a somewhat unusual writing style (I like a lot of quotes) and a different perspective than most J-school graduates have.
A lot of people drop out of reporting and it’s very common for reporters to hear “I used to be a reporter” or “I wrote for a paper once” from a source. But then you have the “lifers,” the people who seem to be born with ink in their veins. When they bleed, they bleed CMYK.
I may or may not be a “lifer,” but Ray Crippen, former editor of the Daily Globe in Worthington, was just such a reporter. His first job was as a paperboy, and to give you a glimpse of how long he was involved with newspapers, that was during World War II. And he had a real reporting education at the University of Minnesota, where he majored in journalism and political science and worked at the Minnesota Daily. During the Korean War he wrote for the Stars and Stripes.
Stateside again, he started working at the Daily Globe in 1954. He worked in multiple departments, which you don’t see too often anymore in newspapers–advertising, circulation, composition and then yes, the newsroom. He eventually became city editor and managing editor. (I paraphrased the last two paragraphs from this fantastic biography written by Globe staffer Beth Rickers, but you should absolutely read it in its entirety.)
He left the Globe in 1989, and started writing books on local history. But like most true-blue newsers he didn’t stay away for long. (Does the ink seep into our hearts?) He started writing a column focusing on local history in the late 1990s and kept going until about two months ago.
While I never worked directly with Ray Crippen during my 6 years working at the Globe, I did meet him from time to time. He was always unfailingly kind, soft-spoken, and so, so much fun to talk to.
He knew me from Reprint, a feature I was responsible for that involved digging up and reprinting stories from the Daily Globe’s archives. Reprint exists mostly as a blog, but sometimes found its way into print as well, and Ray’s interest in history meant that he always had something fascinating to say about its content. Sometimes he’d written it.
Ray Crippen died Dec. 27. Worthington has lost a piece of its history, not just in Ray himself but in his encyclopedic knowledge of the city’s past. He truly was a local legend, as this letter to the editor says.
You can still find his work online. The most recent work, his columns, can be read here. They are conversational, warm and witty, much like the person who wrote them. A bit of his older work can still be found on Reprint, here.
It’s an infinitesimally tiny splinter of the vast forest of his work.
For those of us who live on deadlines, headlines and bylines, I’ll end this piece with an old reporting tradition, in honor of Ray Crippen, whose story drew to a conclusion in December: