The Sun Sentinel reporter has done countless interviews, but two stick out in his mind: actor Yul Brynner and cartoonist Walt Kelley – mostly because he was the last person they gave interviews to before they died.
“I can be dangerous to talk to,” jokes the 74-year-old writer.
At the time of his interview with Brynner, just a few months before “The Ten Commandments” actor died of lung cancer, Crinklaw was asked not to bring up the diagnosis by Brynner’s publicist. Brynner, who blamed the cancer on his decades-long smoking habit, brought up the subject himself.
“He had just been diagnosed with lung cancer. He talked about how he had given it to himself smoking. It was very touching.”
A former colleague of Crinklaw’s also had the distinction of being the last to interview a famous actor – Kerry Grant.
“We called ourselves the deadly duo.”
Luckily, since then, the other subjects Crinklaw wrote about have lived well past their interview with him.
Paid to be nosy
It’s a good thing Crinklaw, as he puts it, is paid to be nosy. “I don’t know how to do anything else.”
Until he started writing, Crinklaw had been working anywhere and everywhere he could; retail, a banquet facility, the hospitality industry and teaching English at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Once he did start writing though, “I took to it like a duck to water. I think I was born to do it. It took me a long time to catch on though.”
He’s been working, on and off, in the profession for the past 30 years, depending on how well things were going.
“Sometimes, I had enough money so I could just do freelance writing. Other times, the money ran out and I had to get a real writing job.”
That list of real writing jobs includes the Sun Sentinel, Forum Publications, Washington City Paper and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The latter is a resume line he shares with his wife, Elaine Viets, a mystery novelist and former columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“I’m as famous as the guy Elaine Viets is married to.”
The future of his profession
It’s no secret that paper isn’t the future of journalism. Crinklaw thinks it will take longer than most people think though for newspapers to go totally online, but he’s more worried about how much is invested.
“Whether journalism is going to be the troublemaking voice of the people is going to be the question.”
Some of the modern tools of journalism are also a mystery to him.
While many of his fellow journalists use brand new smart phones to record interviews, Crinklaw still uses a tape recorder – something he has to replace often.
“It falls apart every three or four years. I have one of those smart phones, so I might have to switch . . . as I soon as I figure out how to use it.”
Some things in journalism haven’t changed though.
Asked what advice he would give a new journalist about interviews, Crinklaw responded, “One trick I use is to simply ask someone for their help to get the story out; that this is your chance to get your side out. We can tell the world what you believe in.”
Homework helps too.
“Do some research. Google or call your subject. Show them that you bothered to take the time to learn about them.”
This post was crafted by one of Conceptual Communications’ talented content strategists, Michael, at the request of Founder & President Laurie Menekou. “You know I meet so many journalists and Don seems legendary because he is legendary,” states Menekou. “I thought he would get a kick out of being on the other side of the tape recorder so-to-speak! Thanks for all the wonderful reporting you do [Don] to help our clients get their stories heard – the Conceptual Communications team hearts you!”