April 7, 2000
SACRAMENTO, March 31: The recipient of the 2000 Bill Farr Award from the California Society of Newspaper Editors (CSNE) is Tim Crews, a publisher who served a 5-day jail sentence rather than reveal sources. The award will be presented during the CSNE/Associated Press News Executives Council Convention in Los Angeles at the Sheraton Universal Hotel on May 5 by Mark Vasché, president of CSNE and editor of the Modesto Bee.
Crews, 57, is the editor, publisher, investigative reporter and more for the Glenn County-based Sacramento Valley Mirror, a twice-weekly paper with circulation of 2600. In June 1999 Crews wrote and published an article in his paper about a gun reportedly stolen from the Tehama Interagency Drug Enforcement (TIDE) unit in 1994 by Dewey Anderson, a TIDE agent assigned from the CHP who later became Glenn County undersheriff and then rejoined the California Highway Patrol. When Anderson left the TIDE unit, Crews received unsubstantiated tips that a semi-automatic gun signed out to Anderson had never been returned. The gun showed up in April 1999 at a Shasta County high school in the possession of Anderson's daughter's boyfriend. The boyfriend claims that Anderson gave him the gun.
The assault-style .380 semi-automatic had its serial numbers ground off. Crews has since reported that the weapon was purchased for $50 from a TIDE informant and labeled as found property. TIDE acquired it knowing it was stolen.
In June, Crews reported that he had been told about the theft years earlier. Crews was subpoenaed for a January preliminary hearing in the Anderson theft case and ordered to reveal the sources of his information. Citing California's Shield Law and federal First Amendment privilege, he refused. The judge pronounced that revealing the information would have no adverse impact on Crews' ability to run his newspaper and sentenced him to 5-days in jail for contempt. After a round of stays and unsuccessful appeals to higher courts, Crews reported to the Tehama County Jail on February 26. Crews maintains that if he revealed his sources, no one would ever again trust him with sensitive information and he would lose his effectiveness as a reporter. The saga isn't over yet. Crews recently received another subpoena to appear on June 5 in the Anderson trial and he may face jail again.
When Crews started his paper eight years ago, he wanted to have a positive impact on his community. The way to do that, he said, was to "hold up a mirror" to the community and to air out the area's dirty laundry.
The award is named in honor of Bill Farr, a reporter for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner who was sentenced to jail after citing the shield law when he refused to reveal sources of a leak in the Manson Case in 1971. Farr later worked for the Los Angeles Times. The pressroom in the Criminal Courts Building in Los Angeles is named after him.
CFAC suggests the recipient of the Bill Farr Award, which is given by CSNE. Qualifications are exemplary accomplishment, service or other contribution to "the people's right to know" in California. Nominees are evaluated based on actions that deserve public honor and emulation.
Typical areas of concern are access to public meetings, public records and courts; defense of citizens' rights to speak; defense of journalists' rights; and defense of the right to "blow the whistle" and alert the public to matters of common concern.
CFAC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and protecting the rights of all people to be informed and involved citizens.