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RIP to one of our own, one of our best -- Craig Stanke

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Moderator1, May 29, 2012.

  1. CarlSpackler

    CarlSpackler Active Member

    Just two days ago, he wrote this. God damn.

  2. Dan Wetzel

    Dan Wetzel New Member

    I have a bunch of Craig Stanke stories – doesn’t everyone – but I’ll limit this to a couple.

    When I interviewed for the job of college basketball writer at the then-Sportsline.com, there was a full day of meetings, interviews and even dinner. The day ended with Stanke at his Fort Lauderdale home away from home, Sharky’s Bar. Needless to say, as anyone who knew Stanke, he starts getting after it. This is not a sip a beer and casual talk kind of pace. As anyone who knows me knows, I’m normally obliged to go right along, especially since he’s clearly a great guy with a million stories about the business.

    Except, this was a job interview after all.

    He senses my concern and says, “look, you were great today, they all liked you, you’re going to get the job. If you stick around until closing though, I can expense the entire tab. So don’t go anywhere.”

    It was a great night.

    There was another time when Sportsline was really hurting. We were down to six writers, our stock was $0.80 (by the way, thanks for those stock options Steve Miller) and everyone thought we were going to get shut down. The dot com bubble had burst and there were few options. It was serious doom and gloom.

    Stanke made this speech saying we weren’t going under and he didn’t care what anyone said, we were doing phenomenal, groundbreaking work every day that was changing the industry. Morale surged. It was a great rah-rah speech.

    He also swore his last day at Sportsline would not be getting laid off or shut down but when he walked out the door and into retirement.

    That part pained me today. He should’ve had that.

    This was a guy who worked tirelessly to help a young reporter get better. He put me through my paces but in the most supportive, enthusiastic tone. I’d file some terrible collection of words and he’d call up and act excited about having the opportunity to salvage it with me. I’ve never met anyone who loved sports journalism and things like copy and form and style more than Stanke. He was awesome. I owe him so much.

    I know he’s done the same for dozens and dozens others. He had a website about sports writing and obviously posted frequently here as the wise voice of reason. He was, without ever realizing it, the greatest sports writing professor in the country.

    Also worth remembering: his work, along with Miller, Mark Swanson and the also-late Mike Kahn in making Sportsline viable changed this industry. When Sportsline started (long before me) no one thought about having professional, original content on websites. ESPN didn’t do it like that then. Neither did SI.

    The model was the news sites like CNN, which is essentially TV people trying to run a “print” medium. There was, and still isn’t, any kind of commitment to true reporting and writing at those place. CBS.com is not like CBSSports.com, with columnists and reporters of this level.

    Everyone who works on the net owes a bit of gratitude to those guys at Sportsline because without that becoming the standard, it is unlikely the other sites would’ve followed along.

    Oh, and one other thing. As much as Craig loved the work (and running and the Wisconsin Badgers) he loved being a father the most. He took the most pride in that job and his results say everything about him. A lot of us will miss a friend and a mentor, but his family takes the greatest burden here.

    Such a sad, sad day. Please raise one for Craig Stanke. Or go for a long run. Or consider the proper use of the semi-colon. Or hug your kid.

    Dan Wetzel
  3. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    An awesome tribute Dan...
  4. imjustagirl

    imjustagirl Active Member

    Well done, Dan. Thanks for sharing. The story about expensing the tab made me laugh. :)
  5. tmayforth

    tmayforth Member

  6. SportsDude

    SportsDude Active Member

    About six years ago, I read a post of Craig's. He had read a young journalists' work and offered them a friendly veteran critique, only to get a rude response in return. This somewhat irked him. A young journalist myself, I sent him a private message and asked him to look at some of my clips. If he was willing to help, I was someone who would really appreciate it - and really needed it.

    He gave my articles a lot of work, went over them repeatedly and took quite a bit of his own time to explain to me what I was doing right and wrong. He continued helping me out like this for years, giving me advice and being a long-distance and electronic mentor. We kept in contact every couple of months and talked about family, life and the rest.

    It said a lot that a guy at the pinnacle of his profession would take time out of what was surely a hectic schedule to help some bum in Ohio that would probably never write himself out of the county or small-time burg he was living in. It may not seem like much to most, but it meant a lot to me, someone who came into this business and never had a mentor or any kind of network. I'm certainly no Craig Stanke, but I try to return the favor to anyone who asks for my help, whenever I have the chance.

    I'll miss those e-mails, and the small way I got to know Craig - a lot. My heart breaks for his family.
  7. Johnny Dangerously

    Johnny Dangerously Well-Known Member

    I signed on today for the first time in weeks. In my last previous post, I said something about the whole world needing to drink from a tall glass of STFU. I took my own advice, laying low to focus on so much work -- and, I'll admit, to work on measuring my words better. I wasn't going to sign back in until I was ready and really had something to say.

    I'm not ready, but I have something to say.

    Damn. This is crushing news.

    Years before I knew him as Craig, I knew SF_Express and came to appreciate him in the way so many have described here. Then, through fortune better than I deserve, I got the opportunity to do some free-lance editing for the folks in Fort Lauderdale, to meet Craig and Mark and all the other good people, and to see the operation with my curious eyes. When I walked past an unoccupied desk at CBS Interactive, I saw a quote:

    "In this world ... you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant. Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant." -- Elwood P. Dowd

    Ahhh, I thought. But I waited for three days, listening and watching, and learning. Then, I sent SF_Express a PM. I told him I'd seen that quote on a desk in Fort Lauderdale, and it made me smile. He responded:

    That's a very odd coincidence ... :) funny how different people can come up with the same obscure things (I can't believe I didn't make this connection last week)...

    We had a good laugh about it, and we talked about one of the pivotal moments in my career, which led to hard times but also led me to the opportunity I had doing some work with Craig and learning from Craig, if only by extension at times. At the end of a long PM, I apologized for using too many words to tell the whole story, the one few know in that much detail about that time in my life.

    "No, actually, that was just the right amount," he replied. "Another 20 words, though ... "

    That was perfect in so many ways, except that he was being gracious. I could have -- no, he could have cut the thing in half and made it better. And so it's still a perfect memory for me, because he was so kind at what was still a topic of some vulnerability for me. He probably didn't know this, but he taught me a lot in a short time, and that includes measuring words and everything they mean (and can mean). He taught me even more about being open to a different point of view, and I admired his graceful way of wading through the muck and being the voice of reason. I know I am a better sports editor because I knew him and learned from him, and I find myself proofreading this again and again, fearful of committing horrid Stanke style violations.

    If he were here now, and if I were writing this about someone else, I'm sure the journalist and the copy editor in him would wince at the sentimentality, but I know this to be true, so I'm saying it: The quote on his desk, and on his posts, is incomplete, failing to take into account more than those two possibilities.

    Craig was oh so smart, and -- in so many ways he made look easy -- he was oh so pleasant.

    And speaking of quotes:

    This. All of this. During the time I've known him, Craig took much better care of himself than I have, and it seems profoundly unfair that he is gone and I'm still here. Who decides these things? Damn.

    Thank you, sir, for all you taught me.

    My heart goes out to his family and friends, to his CBS family, and to anyone feeling the loss. Rest in peace, Craig.
  8. Larry Holder

    Larry Holder New Member

    Really stunned to hear about Stanke's death. He's one of the best people I've ever worked for and someone who allowed you to take chances without getting yourself in trouble. He was someone who knew all of the ways to make your work better, and yet was more than open to suggestions. I'm so thankful to have worked for him the last few years.

    And I'm honestly going to miss the song that was stuck in his head every morning on Twitter. RIP my friend.
  9. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    Just went through pages and pages of PMs, I knew I had some back-and-forth with SF_Express about job board stuff but knew we had some fun talks about something.

    Then I found them. We talked about greyhound racing. Man, that's so perfect for an old-school journalist like him.

    "I played two things: Inside dogs, and dogs who ran from behind, which when you think about it, could be quite the contradicton. But that was my deal... "

    He also had a great story about Van McKenzie at Derby Lane in St. Pete, predicting a race for Craig that proceeded to come in exactly as he said. Hopefully you had a lot of money on it, Van told Craig. Nah, Craig said, he changed his mind at the window.

    The board has been a rough place for a while now, with so many doom and gloom threads in a doom and gloom industry. But SF_Express cared about the craft. I loved his posts and I would have loved to work for him.

    Rest in peace, Craig.
  10. BTExpress

    BTExpress Well-Known Member

    Craig played a big part in Fort Lauderdale hiring me in December 1985 . . . and right before I started there he left for Jacksonville.

    Wish I could have had the honor of working with him. :'( :'(
  11. Riptide

    Riptide Well-Known Member

    For what it's worth, I found this look-back at the old Clearwater Sun during a Google search. Craig Stanke wrote the first item after the intro. The Reagan story is priceless, so I'll break it out below.


    One other oddity of my Sun career. I left sports briefly and became news editor, putting out the A section, and on either my first night or -- one of them -- in news, Ronald Reagan was shot.

    So I leapt into action with all my design savvy and expert news judgment. We cleared out open pages. We got some expert commentary outside of AP. We ran maps and charts and lots of photos, including a great one of all the federal guys brandishing all those guns right after the shooting as our lead on 1A.

    And we went through several editions and refined and just put out a fabulous section. It was only missing one thing:

    There wasn’t a single photo of Ronald Reagan.

    Fortunately, Stuart wasn’t there then, so he wasn’t around to kill me.
  12. Gomer

    Gomer Active Member

    Like many only knew him by his handle, respected the hell out of him. You could tell he was a measured guy and a great editor just by the tone of his posts.

    He'll be missed.
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