Saying goodbye to Jeremy Clawson: A good friend, talented journalist, and all-around great personJul 23rd, 2009 | By Zach | Category: Columns, Opinions
by Zach Becker
I write this message in great sadness after receiving news of the death of Jeremy Andrew Clawson. The world has lost a great citizen and I’ve lost a friend. I mourn the best way I know how – with words.
I met Jeremy back in 2003. I was a 19-year-old college freshmen, joining the school newspaper. He was a 30-year-old non-traditional student, editor of Barton County Community College’s student newspaper, The Interrobang. A soldier, he was attending school between deployments while his wife worked as a Barton dance instructor.
I was a shy, nervous kid. He was a confident leader (and a very skilled journalist). I was so incredibly shy that I probably would have just kept to myself, did my work, and faded into the background on the newspaper staff had Jeremy let that happen. But from day one, I remember how friendly he was and how he made me feel like a valued member of the team.
At Barton, Jeremy spearheaded an Interrobang investigation into academic dishonesty and outright fraud in the athletic department. You can imagine the type of outside pressure that defying the athletic department can create for a person, yet Jeremy stuck to his guns and didn’t back down to anyone. He reported the truth, and wasn’t afraid to dig deep for the real story. Some of his best reporting involved the discovery of questionable credits received for classes completed at Barton by basketball players transferring to the University of Missouri under coach Quin Snyder. Eventually, all of this led to several members of Barton’s athletic department being indicted for various forms of fraud.
I remember how he recounted a fairly hostile conversation he had with Barton’s head basketball coach concerning the negative publicity the paper was creating.
“How am I supposed to recruit students for the basketball program when your paper is printing this garbage!?” the coach said to Jeremy.
“I didn’t know the school newspaper was supposed to be a recruiting tool,” Jeremy shot back.
Jeremy put pressure on the college’s administration to shape up (most famously through a column he wrote comparing the escalating situation with dishonesty at the college to frogs not jumping out of a pot on the stove that was slowly rising to a boil). He forged alliances with faculty who believed in the importance of truth and brought facts to light that the college trustees most assuredly would have liked kept secret.
Jeremy received a well-deserved First Amendment Award from the Kansas Associated Collegiate Press in 2006 for his investigative work at Barton.
He was a strong leader, but also a smart, charismatic and likable guy. He really brought out the best from each person from the newspaper staff and helped shape the Interrobang into one of the top two-year college papers in the state.
He could sit and joke around with people one minute, and yet have a deep philosophical conversation the next.
I remember when the newspaper staff took part in a school shooting simulation at a local high school. We played the part of the news media, helping the local police department simulate all aspects of a potential shooting for the drill. I remember Jeremy decided that he was going to check if the police had the school locked down properly and the perimeter secured. I don’t know what journalist in their right mind would do this in real life with the gunmen potentially still inside, but, hey, you never know.
Jeremy walked around, got shooed away by police at a couple entrances before jumping a fence and finding an unlocked, unsecured door. I think he went in and took a few pictures before exiting.
The police thought they were prepared for every contingency, but they did not count on the presence of investigative journalist Jeremy Clawson. He was always doing crazy stuff like that, all in good fun of course.
When I needed an actor for a television commercial I was creating for my dad’s business, I turned to the funniest guy I knew – Jeremy Clawson. He was a real trooper, despite the fact he wasn’t getting paid a dime for it. He put on the goofiest looking suit he could find, slicked back his hair, climbed onto the roof of a manufactured home and transformed himself into Grease Mitchell, slimy pizza-flinging salesperson for Big City Homes. It was a lot of fun.
Jeremy was deployed to serve in Afghanistan at the end of the fall 2003 semester. We all respected his bravery in serving our country, but were also saddened to see our friend and leader depart. Jeremy and our newspaper advisor decided to name me as his replacement as editor-in-chief for the Spring 2004 semester. It was not an enviable task to follow in the footsteps of such a great editor. Using his leadership as an example, I forged my own path and eventually earned the respect of my fellow staff members.
I had kind of lost touch with Jeremy after our time together at Barton, sadly, save for an occasional email, but I still thought of him as a friend. I can’t claim to have known him on a deep level, but consider myself privileged for the time I did have with him. He was a man of honor and integrity, two qualities I hold very high. He was a very talented journalist and writer and the best newspaper editor I have ever served under. He was a charismatic and all around great person. He was also a soldier and sacrificed to serve this country. I thank him for service. I also thank him for all he taught me.
Jeremy leaves behind a wife and a daughter. To them I offer my deepest condolences. My thoughts and prayers are with you in this difficult time.
Farewell, Jeremy Andrew Clawson. You will be greatly missed, my friend.