Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Reflections from Rocky Mountain News managers on life six months after the paper's final edition

The following are comments I received from former Rocky Mountain News managers in response to this question in my survey about life six months after the paper published its final edition: Do you have any comments you'd like to share about your experience post-Rocky Mountain News?

These responses came from staff who were not in the bargaining unit - the Denver Newspaper Guild. You can also read a collection of comments from staff who were in the bargaining unit and worked as reporters, columnists, photographers, artists, cartoonists and videographers and a collection of comments from staff who were in the bargaining unit and worked in the newsroom as editors, imagers, technical staff and editorial assistants. To read a story summarizing the results of the survey, click here. To read a copy of the e-mail survey I sent former Rocky staffers, click here.

“Business leaders say to think outside the box, but don't expect them to do it when they're looking at former journalists as job candidates.” - Kevin Huhn, deputy sports editor

"I think I share what has been commonly expressed, an initial sense of grief and loss, but a growing sense of amazement as I come to more fully understand how losing the Rocky will continue to impact us. For me, as time went along, there was some sense of losing my place in life's line, even though friends and family, and that certainly includes Rocky family, were wonderfully supportive. When I awoke Wednesday morning to the news that Teddy had left the building, one comment really sort of stung. They said it had been exactly one year ago to that day when he had made his swan-song speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. My thoughts went immediately to that time at the Rocky, and how we all put our best into it, and how we really, I think, nailed it--Internet first, great papers, a tremendous accomplishment up and down the line, of which I think we all should always be proud. And how we were less than four months away on those brilliant sunny days from learning that it was all over. I'll always be grateful for my nine-plus years with the Rocky and its people. I've lived awhile now and seen some ups and downs. I've always held to the idea that anything that doesn't kill you is going to make you stronger. I hope we all get to realize that truth again. We're on our way." - Jim Trotter, senior editor for enterprise and projects

“I never imagined making a living in the online world.” - Cliff Foster, assistant city editor, now working as editor for PoliticsDaily.com, an AOL Web site.

“I have decided to commit myself to photography, full time. I have started Randall K. Roberts Photography, LLC in an effort to market and sell my photographs.
“As you know, for 22 years I have been spending most of my vacation time and spare moments making nature, landscape and travel photos, of the Western U.S and elsewhere. I truly love doing this.
“One week after I turned out the lights at the Rocky, I was making pictures in Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks. It felt great. Despite the fact that it rained nearly every day, I made more great pictures on that one trip than I had in several years. And I enjoyed it so much I found myself giggling.
“I have spent most of the summer editing and scanning pictures, and working on my new Web site: http://archive.randallkroberts.com
“I find myself still at my computer late at night, enjoying every minute and having to force myself to quit and go to bed, much to my wife’s chagrin. I am working day and night, and enjoying every minute.
“For many years I have worked to sell my photos commercially – to book publishers, magazines, etc. I am still doing that, however, now I am placing most of my emphasis on selling my framed and matted photos directly to the public at art shows. I will be in booth number 355 at the Colorado Country Christmas art show at the Denver Merchandise Mart November 6 through 8. That is one of the largest holiday art shows in the area. Now I am working to print and mat or frame scores of pictures so I have something to sell, as well as set up a merchant account for VISA/MC, buy walls and bins for the booth and figure out how I'm going to get it all there. Another deadline looms.
“The day after the show ends at the Merchandise Mart, my wife Sharaine and I will be boarding a plane for Alaska to photograph the largest annual gathering of bald eagles in the world. Four thousand eagles converge on the town of Haines each November to feast on a late run of salmon in the Chilkat River. It’s something I’ve always wanted to photograph and now I’m doing it. That’s a great feeling. (In my former job, I’d be probably be on a conference call with you and Cincinnati going over next year's budget right about then).
“My delight is not without some worry. So far, all the money is going out and nothing is coming in. My long hours at the computer are fueled by the knowledge that I have to work quickly so I can start making sales.
“Despite the financial concerns, I am more relaxed and focused than ever. I am putting to the test the old adage that says: ‘do what you love and the money will follow.’
“Here's to true love.” - Randall Roberts, Senior Editor for administration

“Hmm. How can I say this? The experience of being shut down and kicked out onto the street pretty much sucked. No two ways about it. There are parts that still do suck and losing insurance in the future will really really suck, but overall, the experience has been positive. It launched me out on a great life adventure at a time in my life when I wouldn’t have done it on my own. The experience has moved me out of my comfort zone. It has also made my life enter the realm of all possibilities. Anything can happen and it’s pretty much up to me.” - Dean Krakel, director of photography

“I’ve learned that you are never to take a job or paycheck for granted. Appreciate every moment and every bit of work presented to you, as well as payday. I've also learned that I had the best boss and co-workers in the world. I don't believe I ever really took my job for granted, but in the event I ever did, I certainly will never do that again!” - Lizzy McCormick, office manager

“I couldn't buy into the wave of the ‘reinvention’ overhauls of former journalists after the Rocky closed. Rather, I stepped back and thought carefully about why I got into this business in the first place, thought about the odd appeal of the stress and the noisy newsroom and the long hours. I thought about the sense of accomplishment after getting the story, and how newspapering is what I've wanted to do since I was a kid - something I was unwilling to give up.
“While it was extremely hard to pack up my home in Denver and haul my life to New Jersey, three months later I think I've ended up exactly where I should be: In a fast-paced, forward-thinking newsroom full of talented reporters and editors who make quantifiable differences in the lives of our readers.
“And though the Rocky may have died, I remain in the industry to keep its ideals alive.” - Armando Arrieta, assistant city editor

“I miss the thrill, the rush, of breaking news, and am doing everything in my power to again sit in the hottest seat I can find -- in the middle of the fire -- in a newsroom.” - John Boogert, Internet news editor

“I'd say it was traumatic at first, then just sad. Now, I'm looking forward to building on my journalism skills in a new way. And it has been eye-opening in the sense that I think I look at newspapers through the eyes of a consumer now rather than solely a journalist, and it often isn't pretty. I never understood people who said they could get by without a newspaper. Now I do. Newspapers often feel disconnected and stale to me - not interesting enough to pull me in. I do way more of my newspaper reading on-line, just like everyone else. It saddens me, but I understand more than ever why this is so.” - Deb Goeken, managing editor

“I continue to receive almost universally supportive, warm response from people in the community when I contact them for advice and networking help. For the most part, these are people with whom I had not had contact. The regard for the the Rocky and the professionalism of the staff is high and helpful to me as I explore a career change.” - Luke Clarke, assistant city editor

“Six months off work has been great - valuable time to think, read, rest, study, travel, reconnect, evaluate. Staying in Denver and staying in journalism will be tough goals to reconcile.” - Rob Reuteman, business editor

“Searching for a ‘regular’ job was getting me nowhere -- and I'm sorry -- I'm stubborn, and I don't want a "regular" job. I want to write and edit and design and think up funny, crazy, interesting stories. I miss my job at the Rocky every day, but I'm trying to stay creative by freelancing and doing my own thing.
Denveralamode.com has been a lot of work, but a lot of fun. I don't know if we'll make any money doing it, but it's been a great creative outlet, and our readership does continue to grow each week. I have been writing for AOL's StyleList.com for a few weeks now, and it has been great. I will also be the kids fashion reporter for AOL's ParentDish.com site, once the paperwork goes through. I've done some other writing and editing and have been approached about some other blogging opportunities. I'm hoping I can cobble enough freelance together to earn close to my former salary.
“It's nice to sit on my patio as I work, but, man, I'd rather be in the newsroom.” - Lesley Kennedy, deputy features editor

“Doors close and doors open. I dearly miss the people at the Rocky, but I'm aware that I would have never had the job I do now nor met the same people if the Rocky was still publishing. Change creates opportunity and I'm thankful for the opportunities I've had in the past six months.” - Eric Brown, city editor

“It was the best job I ever had. I hope to work with a team like that again.” - Mike Noe, interactive editor

“No matter how many times you said to yourself ‘The closing of the paper is inevitable, I'll just move on when it happens,’ the closing and the loss of the job knocks you for a loop. Your daily pattern, shaped over decades of work, doesn't just wind down -- it snaps shut. You're done. You lose the day-to-day interaction with a lot of fun and talented people. You need to figure out a new pattern that allows you to start a job search while also making sure you enjoy some of the free time you suddenly have. For many of us, you have to explain the situation to your kids (good luck with that). I have certainly hit some dead ends trying to navigate a new course. Still am.
“And let's face it: The fact that the paper closed just shy of its 150th birthday, in an economic environment in which things turned so bad so fast, shakes you up. Papers have been around for centuries, you think, and now everyone is saying in a matter of just a few years they may be extinct. What the heck is going on here? What's disappearing next?
“All that being said, after more than 25 years in newspapering in a variety of positions, I was open to trying something different, and not because I was sick of journalism or because finding a news job would be difficult (although it certainly is more difficult). I wanted to see, first, if I could run my own business. And I wanted to find something interesting and forward looking that fit my skills. This became even more clear after spending months networking like crazy and applying for jobs (to no avail) via e-mail, the current bane of every job-seeker's existence. I am, however, saving all of the rejection form letters, because I'm sure they will form the basis of a book I can sell at supermarket check-out lines next to celebrity magazines and weight loss tomes.
“So I have launched a social media consultancy where I help businesses figure out the best way to communicate with and engage their clients, customers, fans ... you name it. There's a lot (a LOT) of hype in the space. More persuasively, there are a lot of people in that space. Facebook has more than a quarter of a billion members, and there are plenty more on the likes of Digg, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube and many others. (And yes, those names may change in the years ahead, but the people are going to stay in the space.) Newspapers, many of whom liked to mock social media over the past few years, are suddenly starting to realize what a powerful tool it can be for their breaking news. Hey, even the Iranian dictatorship (sorry, elected government) can attest to the power of social media.
“So am I going to be a big winner? Have I picked the right thing to do? Will R&R Media (see, I even have an LLC) make a lot of money? I have no idea. But I am learning something new every day, I have two clients (bless 'em) and working on more. It's exhilarating. It's terrifying. It's difficult. Most every day I think about failing. In other words, just like working at a newspaper.” - Joe Rassenfoss, features editor

“I miss the collective energy that comes with collaborating on stories that can make a difference in people's lives.” - Kathy Bogan, presentation director


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