Remembering a scholastic journalism legend

Kathy Craghead, a long-time NSPA judge, died peacefully in her beloved hometown of Mexico, Missouri on May 23, 2018. She was 64.

Photo by Mark Murray

The 2003 H.L. Hall National Yearbook Adviser of the Year, Craghead was a strong supporter of NSPA and served on the Board of Judges since the early 1980s. She frequently judged the Best of Show competition at conventions and served on the Yearbook Pacemaker judging team several times.

Craghead’s obituary appeared in the Mexico Ledger. She started writing it, and long-time friend H.L. Hall finished it for her family.

Kathy Craghead is a yearbook legend. I am so glad that I had the chance to work with her at workshops and at NSPA.

She was a fabulous teacher to not only her own students at Mexico High School, but also at the numerous workshops where she taught student journalists how to be better writers. She also taught her fellow faculty not only how to be better teachers, but also how a wicked sense of humor can get you through anything.

When I started at NSPA, Kathy was one of the first to congratulate me and offer to help in any way. That gesture meant the world to me. She was gracious with her time and insight. I was even more grateful that she continued to be a judge for us, not only for critiques but also for Pacemaker competitions.

Scholastic journalism is going to miss her, but we are so much better because we knew her.

Laura Widmer
Executive Director, NSPA

In 1982, as director of the student yearbook workshops at Ball State University, I invited Kathy to be a member of the faculty. She had taught with me at the University of Missouri summer workshop, but this was her first workshop out of state. I was a little concerned she might not be accepted by the outstanding faculty at Ball State because of her somewhat sarcastic wit. There was no need for my concern. She was accepted by everyone, and the rest is history. That led to her eventually being invited by journalism organizations and yearbook companies to present workshops across the country. She had an impact on a large number of students and advisers.

I had the privilege of co-teaching a lot of sessions with her at the national JEA/NSPA conventions. She was a delight to work with as she had a way with words that made participants laugh as they learned. Our sessions usually had standing room only attendance, and I’m sure that was because of her.

She loved teaching writing, and she loved helping both students and advisers become better journalists. She could evaluate a publication quickly, and her words of advice were always spot-on. There were years when she challenged me to see who could judge the most publications for NSPA. She said she was going to make me a has-been. Comments like that might offend some, but I knew she was kidding. I just responded by saying she couldn’t do that, since I was already a has-been. Kathy isn’t with us any longer, but that doesn’t make her a has-been. Her influence lives on.

H.L. Hall
Kirkwood (Mo.) High School, retired

Kathy Craghead was a committed journalism teacher who believed in the power of student media and those who created it. Thousands of students and advisers from coast to coast fell under her spell as she shared her wisdom about writing. Emphasizing the importance of words, from in-depth captions and meaningful quick-read pieces to longer narratives, she believed the key to a yearbook’s longevity was sound reporting and well-written stories. A prolific judge, she often critiqued over 300 books a year, offering advice to produce sound journalism.

Besides all this, Kathy’s core was her personality. She could zing anyone with that dry, sarcastic wit, yet she loved people and friends dearly. Her stories and observations could keep her people laughing for hours.

Nancy Hastings
Munster (Ind.) High School, retired