Saturday, November 21, 2020

Tim Crews, a rural editor-publisher who fought for open government and went to jail to protect sources, dies at 77

Tim Crews posed in front of the Glenn County Court House. (Photo by Sharon Barker via the Chico Enterprise-Record)

Tim Crews, a rural editor and publisher who was a leading fighter for open government in California, died Nov. 12 after a long illness from various ailments. He was 77.

Glenn County (Wikipedia)
Crews started the Sacramento Valley Mirror in Willows in 1991 after a dispute with management of the Willows Journal. He "wasn’t afraid to put government officials in uncomfortable situations," Sharon Martin reports for the nearby Chico Enterprise-Record. "He never shied away from asking tough questions when necessary and always remained persistent. . . . He’d cover crime but also covered the community events like the Glenn County Fair or the Junior Livestock Auction. He wouldn’t charge for obituaries, either."

In 2000 Crews spent five days in jail for refusing to reveal his sources for a story about theft of weapons by a former California Highway Patrol officer, Janie Har reports for The Associated Press. “If someone is messing with you, you have to fight back. It’s just the American way,” he told the Poynter Institute in 2017.

Crews told Poynter his twice-weekly paper filed an average of more than 20 records requests a year, sometimes going to court fight for public access. In 2013, a judge said his suit to force a school district to turn over 3,000 withheld emails from the superintendent was frivolous, and ordered him to pay $56,595 in attorneys' fees and costs when his income was 20,000 a year. An appeals court reversed the ruling, and Crews won the California News Publishers Association Freedom of Information Award. He received the California Press Foundation’s Newspaper Executive of the Year Award in 2009.

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