The southeastern region of NATAS did something remarkable last week: It recognized three humble, hardworking Atlanta news grunts.
Donna Lowry and I were both new hires at competing stations when she arrived in Atlanta in 1986. We both did general assignment reporting, and wore the shell-shocked look that comes with a reporter’s first brushes with big-city news. Lowry went on to become WXIA’s education reporter — an assignment that seemed destined to fade in the face of changing news directors and audience research. Instead, the ageless Lowry (and her photog, the ageless Kathy Bourn) has turned it into a calling.
Paul Crawley began working at WXIA in 1978. Crawley (and yeah, Mark Winne) are the Atlanta reporters who most seem to come straight out of the Damon Runyon school of journalism — news-breaking, trench-coated, and tirelessly devoted to getting it right. Crawley adds a sharp sense of humor, and the adaptability of a guy who became a one-man-band late in life. Every day, Crawley is among the first to arrive and the last to leave his desk.
My man-crush on Jon Shirek has been somewhat well documented on this site. Shirek’s personal style is understated and thoughtful. He writes and delivers stories with uncommon elegance and clarity. And he’s done it at WXIA since 1980. Like Crawley, Shirek agreed to become a one-man-band in the last decade.
As a postscript, I’ve got to include Russ Spencer in my list of accolades. With Monica Pearson finally out to pasture, the readers of Creative Loafing recognized the WAGA anchor in the weekly’s “best of” issue. They probably don’t realize what an outstanding choice they made. Spencer is frequently the smartest guy in the room, but won’t jump up and down to out-shout the folks who think they’re the smartest guys in the room. Watch his chatter with reporters following stories; Spencer is a news anchor who pays close attention to the stories that fly by on the broadcast, and grasps the story’s essence.
Plus, he looks great in a set of fake teeth.