First Coast News anchor Heather Crawford’s telegenic personality and camera-ready attire belie the many years she’s spent as an investigative journalist—and the seriousness of the stories she’s covered. She recently spoke with Jax Mag about her favorite memories as a reporter and life in Northeast Florida.
• As a little girl growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina, Crawford dreamed of a career in journalism. “We always watched Dateline and 60 Minutes and I would just look at the TV and say, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ I did three internships at TV stations while in college at NC State, got the news bug and sent résumé tapes all over the country.” Her first job was as a morning reporter in Montgomery, Alabama.
• Crawford won an Emmy for her documentary West Memphis Three: Justice Served? (about three teenagers who were tried and convicted for the 1993 murders of three boys in West Memphis, but later released after forensic evidence was uncovered proving their innocence). “People at my station said not to get involved in the case. The public perception was that they were guilty, but the DNA tests were starting to show that someone else was responsible. I just knew I had to get involved.” Reporting on the case required Crawford to visit one of the accused murderers, Damien Echols, in prison. “I went to Death Row three or four times to visit him. That was fascinating. It’s the most sterile environment. I had to speak to him through a glass partition. When he got out of prison in 2011, it was like he’d been in a coma for the past 18 years. They had a big party for him at a hotel in Memphis and he didn’t even know what the hotel key was.”
• After Crawford’s husband Michael sustained an injury while golfing, the couple moved to Jacksonville so that he could undergo surgery at the Mayo Clinic. “My husband went to Texas A&M with Tim Deegan so when we decided to move to Jacksonville, he gave him a call to see if the station had any jobs open. That’s how I ended up at First Coast News.”
• Crawford, her husband and their two kids (Pressly, 4 and Palmer, 6) live in St. Johns County, but leave the neighborhood quite often. “We recently discovered Sweet Pete’s and Candy Apple Café which has become our new favorite place.”
• “My station recently sent me to Miami to cover the Coast Guard search efforts for El Faro [a Jax-based cargo ship that went missing during Hurricane Joaquin]. I had the opportunity to go on a C-130 military transport aircraft with the Coast Guard. We took off at 6 AM and flew out to the Bahamas. Eventually, they dropped the plane to 500 feet over the ocean and opened the back doors. Two guys spent five hours hanging out of the back of the plane, using their naked eyes to search for survivors.”
• “A lot of people say, ‘Don’t you get tired of reporting only negative news?’ But a lot of what we report is positive. I love transformational stories—where people use tragedy to triumph.” ]