SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) -There is no easy way to cope with the death of a friend, loved one, or co-worker. It becomes especially difficult when the one who has passed is all of those, and so much more.
WTOC’s Creative Director Craig Harney passed away in his sleep at his home on Saturday night, surrounded by the people he loved.
It’s impossible to quantify the impact that Craig has had on WTOC. A Savannah native and a graduate of Armstrong, he began his career at WTOC 40 years ago.
“I needed a job!” Craig said in an interview recorded earlier in 2019. You can hear the smile in his voice as he says this, realizing how that job changed his life. “I needed a part-time job while I was a student at Armstrong and a friend of mine’s mom came in and said ‘Hey, they’re looking for someone to answer the phones at WTOC'.”
Craig went from answering phones to playing a critical role in establishing WTOC as “The Southeast News Leader”. You could find him combing the streets of Savannah with a camera on his shoulder, looking for the perfect shot. He could be found in the Brooklet peanut fields with dirt on his pants as he laid on the ground, framing up the rows of peanut plants before he pressed record. He stood steady amidst choppy waters and high wind speeds as he ran reporter live shots during hurricanes that battered the coasts he loved so much. He was a professional at connecting the audience with what was on the screen.
“Craig is very creative,” said Doug Weathers, former WTOC anchor and news director. “And if you’ve read anything that he’s written, he’s so good at writing. He just makes stories come alive.”
Some of those stories were groundbreaking pieces, such as the documentary he shot on famed civil rights leader W.W. Law, titled “In His Own Words”. Craig received the Scripps Howard National Journalism Award for that story. He took home many honors and much recognition for the various other stories he was involved with over the years. It was never a surprise to hear of another Harney record being made-he was the best.
Craig was devoted to his family. His daughter Maggie recounts being followed around with a video camera as a child.
“He walked us to the first day of school," Maggie said. "He came to all of our soccer practices. He came to all of our shows, and our pageants. He’d start on Christmas Day and he would film all the way through Thanksgiving of that year. And that was the gift he would give to my mom every year, to my grandparents every year. He called it a Very Maggie and Annie Christmas.”
Craig was a man that was devoted to God and dedicated to his faith as a Catholic. He had a way of talking about his religion that made it bright and welcoming.
“I think the thing that really attracts dad to faith is the community aspect of it," Maggie said. "You’ve got a group of people who really believe strongly in a core set of values.”
“The most important things were the moral things he brought us up through,” said daughter Annie. “It’s ‘be a good person in all of the things that you do, be kind, do things for others, all of these things’, and he intertwined the faith that he believes with all of that to us.”
It was never hard to hear the passion and excitement in Craig’s voice when you asked him what he was working on in a given week.
“It always started with an assignment," Craig said. "We wanted to expand our St. Patrick’s Day coverage, and we’re gonna need content, go find something. So you go find something, and then you meet the coolest people. And it happens over and over and over again. Every time you get involved in something, for whatever reason you get into it, you discover it’s so much more than you imagined. And then you’re hooked.”
It will be tough turning the corner and not running into Craig, or watching him quietly walk through the newsroom for the fifth time in a day to re-record something that wasn’t just quite right. It won’t be the same scrolling through Facebook, knowing we won’t see a classic 'Harneyed’ post made while he was fuming, stuck behind a train yet again.
We are but one group of people that will greatly miss our good friend. We hope that everyone who met him will take time to remember the impact that Craig Harney has left on all of us, and on our community.
“It’s not about what’s now, but what’s next.”
We love you, Craig.