Kirkland Crawford was named sports editor of the Detroit Free Press this week. A Detroit native and a Freep lifer (so far -- he's young), Crawford replaces Chris Thomas.
Crawford grew up in Northwest Detroit, is a graduate of Detroit Renaissance High School and a 2006 cum laude graduate of Central Michigan University. He attended CMU on a Lem Tucker scholarship, which was named for the pioneering broadcast journalist who graduated from CMU. In high school, he was twice a Free Press apprentice, the annual high school journalism program that continues today. He also worked at the paper in high school on the prep sports crew, collecting scores and stats from high school games.
After college, he was hired to write for the Community Free Press and returned to the prep crew. In 2007, he became the sports department’s first web producer. That turned into the first sports web editor in 2011, the first sports digital planner in 2017 and sports deputy editor in 2019.
Crawford will lead a staff of 16 and joins the paper's "senior leadership team," whatever that is.
“Being the sports editor of one of the country’s strongest voices, in (one of) the most dynamic sports towns in the country, is a responsibility I don’t take lightly,” Crawford said.
Crawford is married with two children.
Meanwhile, the Freep paid tribute to former sports editor Joe Distelheim, who died Wednesday at 78. Distelheim was remembered by columnist Shawn Windsor:
He has his fingerprints all over this place, still. Mostly in the sports pages, where he worked as the Freep’s sports editor from 1980-85.
While running the department in one of the nation’s best sports towns, Distelheim hired, among others, Mike Downey, Mitch Albom, Drew Sharp, Mark Kram, Johnette Howard, Tracee Jo Hamilton, Steve Schrader and Gene Myers, who eventually ran the department from 1993 until his retirement in 2015.