Jay Cronley, RIP
Longtime Tulsa newspaper columnist, novelist, and screenwriter Jay Cronley has died at the age of 73. Cronley was an institution on the front of the City/State section of the Tulsa Tribune, then made the transition to the Tulsa World after the World's publisher purchased and shuttered the Tribune. Cronley's curmudgeonly voice ran under his own byline and also that the Tribune Picks, the cynical weekly take on the weekend's upcoming football games. Growing up in a Tribune household, I looked forward to Jay's thrice-weekly columns and weekly football picks (everyone suspected it was him). When I subscribed to the Tribune by mail in college, Cronley's columns were among the reasons I felt no embarrassment in leaving the Tribune on the commons coffee tables next to the Boston Globe and Wall Street Journal.
Cronley left the World just about a year ago, but continued to write three times a week, behind a paywall, on his own website, jaycronley.com. His final piece, "Mayfield Punishment is No Gimmie," appeared on February 26, 2017.
In his final column for the World, Cronley explained what it takes to be a descriptive writer.
Good column writing is descriptive.
At TU, I had them make a list of descriptions.
Cold as what?
One of them wrote cold as the devil.
What makes a good columnist?
It's simple: reading.
If I wanted to become a writer all over again I'd major in English, where you have to read literature. In journalism school, too often you read textbooks. The only way to learn how to write is to read. Reading literature is how you learn to think. You can be taught to be a reporter. When you read literature, you see what works through the ages and what didn't.
That's a good point in favor of the classical approach to education and the benefits of a liberal arts education. The only exception I'd take to Jay's suggestion is that majoring in English these days would likely get you bogged down in intersectional theory and identity politics, while keeping you away from the classic works that would make you a better writer. Better you should find a school that teaches the Great Books, the canon of Western Civilization. I've been encouraging my wordsmith daughter to take a close look at those sorts of schools, the kind that accepts the new Classic Learning Test.
The World has made available Jay Cronley's final columns for the paper and a selection of favorites over the years.
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