For a new reporter, Jay Cronley was a curmudgeonly godsend

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Waking up this morning and finding out Jay Cronley had died overnight was, in his parlance, the WORST. NEWS. EVER.

Anyone who has ever been within earshot of Jay will get that joke. He had a way with words that most of us will never approach, but he had his go-to phrases. In Jay’s world, there was no middle area, something was either the worst, or it was the best.

When I first started working at the Tulsa World, I was what’s known as a “night cops” reporter. My shift started at 3 p.m. and ended around midnight. What that meant was that by the time I walked into the office, most of the reporters were in deadline mode, trying to get their stories finished so they could head home.

The result was that I really didn’t know anyone. The only people I really talked to were night editors like Mary Bishop, Michael Dekker and Adam Daigle. This filled me with a very strong sense of “impostor syndrome.”

The Tulsa World was the only paper I ever wanted to work for, and I was in a newsroom every day with reporters I had read for years. But I didn’t know any of them, and they didn’t know me. So there were days I’d sit at my desk fearful that I wasn’t doing a good job and I was letting them down.

My desk was not far from Jay’s, and every day I would hear him cussing. He’d cuss at his email or cuss at his computer, or cuss about the Thunder or OU or OSU. There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t cuss about.

For some reason, I felt compelled to jump into some sports debate he was having one day. I don’t remember what I said or what the argument was about, but I’m sure Jay disagreed with me.

But from that point on, he would stop by my desk every day to gripe about something, or ask what I thought about some television show or movie or sports contest. Sometimes I would say something to him and he’d reply “Oh, that’s GREAT! I’m going to put that in a column.”

And the next day, there it would be. Somehow, out of all the people at the Tulsa World that I now think of as friends, Jay was the first person to make me feel like I really belonged.

So it really sucks today to find out he’s gone. I think the last time I talked to him was during a random encounter at a Tulsa Drillers game. He asked how I was doing, said he thought The Frontier “was GREAT,” and walked away.

Jay was probably a nightmare for his editors, but to be his co-worker was something special. If you attend his funeral, just know that he’s somewhere watching it and complaining that it’s “THE WORST. FUNERAL. EVER.”

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