Thursday, February 24, 2011

Stories of Rocky Mountain News Staff Who Left Journalism After the Paper Closed

They're working in construction and in restaurants, at universities and ad agencies. Some are retired. Others are students. And a few are unemployed.

A greater percentage of this group who responded to a survey about life two years after the Rocky Mountain News closed said it was better now than when they were at the paper than did those still in the profession. But one theme emerged in this group's personal stories more strongly, a sense of loss.

Fifty-two of the 146 respondents said they were no longer in journalism Of that group, 22, or 42 percent, said life was better. Of the people still working as journalists, 24 percent said the same thing.

(To learn more about the survey, please read the main story and a related article at The Atlantic. You can also read the stories of former Rocky staff still in journalism, and learn what happened to the paper's owner, too.)

Of course, the sample wasn't scientific, so it's possible that those depressed about life outside journalism after the Rocky closed were less inclined to respond. I just don't know. But I do know that many of this group who did respond shared a longing for the camaraderie they had experienced at the paper.

Here are a few themes that emerged in their reflections on life after the newspaper closed:

  • Missing the 'family" and common goal. "I really miss the Rocky, and journalism in general," wrote Julie Lovell, a former presentation editor who's now unemployed. "I especially miss my co-workers (who were like family) and the feeling of pride when such a talented team of people come together working toward a common goal. I don't think there's been any other job outside of a newsroom where I have felt that. I hope that one day I will have it again."
  • Miss the people. "As I'm sure you will hear from just about everyone who responds: I think about the Rocky everyday and still miss it and the people I worked with very much," wrote Gerry Valerio, former assistant sports editor/preps, now working a couple of part-time jobs
  • Can't replace the camaraderie and satisfaction. "I also miss the camaraderie at the newspaper and the satisfaction that resulted from the work we did. Nobody I've talked to, working or not, has been able to replace that," wrote Tim Burroughs, a former presentation editor who's also unemployed.
  • Mourning what's happened to journalism. "No matter where my career takes me, I will always mourn the closure of the Rocky and what has happened to the industry of journalism. In my heart, part of me will always be a journalist. But I've decided to move toward doing service work in my community rather than writing about what other people do," wrote Myung Oak Kim, who went on to work in communications for the governor of Colorado.

We had a strict standard on anonymous sources at the Rocky. But we also used them. Sometimes people can be most truthful when they can speak without their name being known. I think the following is one of those cases:

"There are many facets to this question. While we once lived a reasonably carefree lifestyle when it came to money -- meaning that money wasn't necessarily overflowing, but we could generally afford the things we needed -- we are now often worried about unexpected expenses cropping up.

"In many ways, though, what's worse is the loss of work I enjoyed and felt passionate about, a sense of purpose, a daily routine, and the company of smart, interesting and fun colleagues. The loss of a "family" of co-workers can be acute from day to day. It's as if you lost a roomful of friends overnight. Even more dispiriting is the sense that skills you have worked decades to build are no longer valued in the marketplace. Employers who once might have hired journalists are now looking for social networking and various computer skills -- and the younger people who know these things instinctively. It is utterly demoralizing to have decades of writing and editing experience and not even get an interview for a job you would barely have considered straight out of college.

"All of these things combined, I've found these past two years some of the most difficult of my life. That said, though, I can see that I am making good progress at finding a new way and might even feel, one day, that losing my job was actually the best thing that ever happened to me. The jury is still out on how it will look to me 10 years from now.

"I apologize if any of this sounds like whining. I just wanted to paint a realistic picture of what life is like, post-journalism, as I would hate to see a Pollyanna report that doesn't include the many trials we are all facing or have faced in the past few years. Suffice to say that it was more traumatic than I ever envisioned."

Here are the stories of many others no longer working as journalists, in their own words:

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Randall Roberts

Senior editor for administration, now working as a nature photographer, Randall K. Roberts Photography. Said Life is the same or a little worse

I enjoy the photography-related work and meeting people at my shows, but trying to make sales and create an income stream is wearing on me.

I thought I worked hard at the Rocky, but now I'm working longer hours and more days of the week than before. Being self-employed and working at home, it's harder to leave work behind and take a break, especially with the pressure to find income, than it was when I had a salaried job outside the home.

They say the first year of a new business is the hardest. I've survived that and a little more. Onward.

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Judi Villa

Police reporter now working as a communications specialist/911 dispatcher for Gilpin County Sheriff's Office. Said life is somewhat better

Before the Rocky closed, I thought I would be a journalist for life. I spent nearly 20 years in news (as a reporter and video producer) and loved every minute of it. The past two years have been a journey to reinvent myself. I have grieved and I have laughed, sometimes at the same time. Ultimately, I have found a new career where I help people on a daily basis, and I feel like I am doing something that makes a difference. As a bonus, I have a much better work/life balance and more quality time to spend with family and friends. The Rocky closing forced me to explore opportunities I might never have looked at otherwise, and I have been pleasantly surprised to find that there is life after news. And that life, although very different, is very good. I still miss news some times, but I chose not to go back, and I am happy with where I am now.

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Luke Clarke

Assistant city editor now working as a communications specialist for Kaiser Permanente. Said life is somewhat better

My career change has meant a lot of learning – a new industry, new organizations and a new professional culture. One of the things I liked most about journalism was the almost daily opportunity to learn. Seemingly dry topics like public finance can be intriguing from a journalist's perspective of needing to acquire enough knowledge to explain to a large audience how it affects their lives.

I consider myself still in the exploratory phase of career change and am looking for opportunities to tell stories. I’m sharing a link to a video I made to tell the story of losing my father the day after losing my job at the Rocky as an illustration of where my exploration was about a year ago:

http://vimeo.com/9168234

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Julie Lovell

Presentation editor now unemployed. Said life is somewhat worse

Initially after the closure of the Rocky I was very sad but also, in a way, relieved. Life initially was good and relatively stress-free! I was happy to spend more time at home and with family, etc. and I was looking forward to exploring new opportunities and career choices.

Things took a turn quickly when I contracted something called Human Parvovirus B19. I thought only dogs could get Parvo but apparently this is totally different.

I can't even describe how this virus completely changed my life. If you're interested, there is some information online and a couple of youtube videos... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X09KrFsx8HA.

The real downside is that the virus triggered my body into developing Rheumatoid Arthritis, so now I'm dealing with that.

I really miss the Rocky, and journalism in general. I especially miss my co-workers (who were like family) and the feeling of pride when such a talented team of people come together working toward a common goal. I don't think there's been any other job outside of a newsroom where I have felt that. I hope that one day I will have it again.

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Kimberly Humphreys

Presentation editor, now working as an elementary school special education teacher. Said life is about the same.

It's complicated for me, as I'm sure it is for everyone. Many times, life has been much worse. But I had the good fortune to be selected as a Denver Teaching Fellow in May and hired at my first-choice school in August. Now, it feels like providence. My work is deeply rewarding, and I feel like a valued part of a community (I live in the school borders, so community is real in every sense.)

Ellis is a Title I school that serves some of Denver's most at-risk families. Thirty languages are spoken here; the school is a magnet for refugee and newcomer families (even our principal is a former refugee). As a special-ed teacher, I feel like the distance between cause and effect is just across a table. It's pretty great!

The hard part is money. As a first-year teacher, I net less than $2,000 a month. And because mine wasn't the only income in our family lost when the Rocky closed, that amount must support Clara entirely, including her school tuition. Every penny counts, and there just aren't enough of them. In that sense, life is still a lot worse. Also, I miss the Rocky dearly — as a reader. So many stories are going untold. Projects like Laura's and Ann's are shining lights, but there just aren't enough of them, and too many corners of our city are dark. I still feel sad and discouraged about that. But, along with Laura and Ann, you, M.E. and a few others are pushing journalism through this transition, and for that, I am hopeful.

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Timothy Burroughs

Presentation editor, now unemployed. Said life about the same

It's better in many ways, such as having the free time to work on personal projects, travel (we spent a month in Europe this summer), and just kick back. We miss the income, of course, which has forced us to make some adjustments to our lifestyle as well as in our planning for the future. I also miss the camaraderie at the newspaper and the satisfaction that resulted from the work we did. Nobody I've talked to, working or not, has been able to replace that.

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Amy Speer

Presentation editor now working as a production designer at a marketing/advertising company. Said life is somewhat better, somewhat worse.

I said somewhat better and somewhat worse because there are many things I miss about my old job, like my co-workers, pay, the need to create something new and different every day, the ability to make a difference and the chance to plan something. I don't miss working nights and holidays. With my new job I have learned so many things, like video editing, web design and programming, branding, etc., so it's also better because I probably wouldn't have had chance to grow in the ways that I have over the last two years.

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Dean Lindoerfer

Presentation editor now retired. Said life is much better

Retirement is much better than working even though I do miss the newsroom excitement. Now I can see and attend many sporting events at night. . .i.e. Nuggets and Rockies, and of course my Broncos on Sundays. My wife and I are raising and have adopted two grandchildren, 10 and 8 and loving every minute of it at age 65. I have taken over management of my wife's folk art business, (www.VicalaFolkArt.com) directing upcoming shows, advertisement materials, etc. Also manage my wife and singing partner's engagements at various retirement centers and outside events. They are called 'Just the 2 of Us.' I have kept in contact with some of my fellow workers at the Rocky. . .going to lunch at times.

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Todd Burgess

Presentation editor, now studying to be a physical therapist assistant. Said life is somewhat better

We have less income, but I like the direction my work/life is headed. I have former coworkers at other newspapers who have experienced layoffs and furloughs and are under the continual stress of not knowing what bad news will hit their newspaper careers next. It's nice to be out of that loop. Plus, helping people walk again and regain their function, as I'll be doing as a physical therapist assistant, makes for a rewarding career.

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Myung Oak Kim

Reporter, went on to work in communications for governor. Said life the same

When I graduated from college, I thought I would be a newspaper journalist for the rest of my life. I loved the work because I it allows me to write, to meet people, to make a positive impact on my community and to learn about new subjects. I still miss the job, but I was able to achieve all of those goals in the Governor's office. I don't know what direction my career will take 2 weeks from now when the Governor leaves office. But I am grateful for having this opportunity and for being able to support my family and have a good quality of life. No matter where my career takes me, I will always mourn the closure of the Rocky and what has happened to the industry of journalism. In my heart, part of me will always be a journalist. But I've decided to move toward doing service work in my community rather than writing about what other people do. I believe that we all have something to contribute to society. I want to use my skills toward making positive change, which is one of the most noble goals of journalism.

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Wes Pope

Photojournalist/videographer now teaching part-time at Rochester Institute of Technology. Said life somewhat better

I completed an M.A. in Documentary Film & History at Syracuse University in December 2010. I will be teaching a class at Rochester Institute of Technology spring semester (advanced video for photojournalists). And I am currently applying for teaching jobs around the country -- hoping to find a full-time position for Fall 2011.

Life has been a great adventure: (occasional Rocky freelancer) Kate Szrom and I got married in a small ceremony in Colorado Springs in May of 2009. Attending graduate school had been a goal of mine throughout my career and the closing of the Rocky gave me the push to finally go do it. I recently completed my M.A. in Documentary Film & History at Syracuse University. Kate has also been able to pursue her M.A. at Syracuse, studying photography, multimedia and radio. The 1-1/2 year program has been an amazing experience for both of us. If I am fortunate, I hope to land a teaching position and work on documentary film projects during my spare time. Kate is pursuing work in public radio and public television. The job market is still pretty rough and we are expanding our job search to include almost all parts of the country.

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Karen Ziegler

Editorial assistant, now co-owner of a housekeeping company, SCRUBS Housekeeping, life is somewhat worse

It has just been hard to move on and realize I will never again work for the Rocky Mountain News. :(

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Brian Glass

Web developer, now working as a web developer for a communications company, life somewhat worse

My short tenure at the Rocky was the most fun and the best job I ever had. I also miss Colorado.

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Jaime Aguilar

Imaging specialist, now working at the American Indian College Fund as a media and research specialist, life somewhat worse

My life today is much busier and a little redundant. I had the rare exception in my job of traveling to incredible places in Indian country to tell student success stories. I gathered many of our student stories for www.collegefund.org and for our donor appeals.

While on this trip to eight Indian reservations, I created this marketing video to say thank you to our donors from the students directly (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1tVXh2_nI0) for my first major project. I hope I showed enough to the brass to have them send me out into the field again.

I still get to serve citizens by telling stories visually, but I certainly miss the buzz of that urgency and scoop in the newsroom.

The Rocky was my dream job that was paying me well and was rewarding (especially when the photo I made was "run-of-press" on the cover).

Now, I work much harder and wonder when the next step is going to happen, because I don't really see where I can move up in the company. Having to wonder about the ROI for our public relations team every year as the board reviews us can be a disturbing to think about.

THAT day could come again...(hopefully not) but as a lay-off and not another closing - I don't want to go through that again.

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Josephine Trujillo

Sports presentation editor, now a registered massage therapist, life somewhat better

I'm a 2010 graduate (4.0 GPA!!) of the Denver School of Massage Therapy. I returned to school over a year after the Rocky closed (March 2010) since I failed to find a suitable job in the Denver area. Because of family dynamics (and the answer to No. 9 - the layoff allowed me to qualify for a home loan modification program, without which I likely would have lost my house. My mortgage payment was cut by almost half, 49%), I decided leaving Denver was not a good idea, so I sought a career change.

In the two years since the Rocky closed, I have been able to spend so much time with my young son. We had several opportunities to visit friends and family, and now that I work part time, I am home more often for him. I'm making less money now, and although I struggle financially, I am a happier person than I was before. But I very much miss the newsroom and my Rocky colleagues most of all. It stings the most when I have to watch big-news days from the sidelines. I have maintained friendships with several of my former coworkers and have been touched that so many of us are back in the workforce again. Being able to experience a second career has been rewarding, and I am glad to see others doing the same. Yet I am so dang happy and proud for all of those people who were able to stay in journalism, because if I had found a way to do it, I'd be right there with you.

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Bill Scanlon

Reporter, now working as a writer for National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, Colo., writing science feature stories, fact sheets, overviews, etc.

Some of my stories run in newspapers and magazines, from the London Times to Dairy monthly, so I consider myself somewhat of a journalist, still. Nothing can compare to the fun and excitement of the newsroom, but for me, at 59, the move to NREL was a perfect fit. Fewer deadlines, but the articles are just as challenging, and renewable energy is a field that I can believe in.

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Jay Dedrick

Feature writer, now working in communications at the University of Colorado president's office, life about the same

There are pros and cons to having made the switch into communications/public relations. I am relying on the same skill set, and feel very fortunate to be doing so. I very much continue to miss the newsroom atmosphere. Lucky to be working having decided with my family that we would not be willing to leave the area.

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Gerry Valerio

Former assistant sports editor for high school sports, now working two part-time jobs to make a full-time job. Life is somewhat worse professionally, much better personally

Professionally, I enjoy what I am doing now overall, but it certainly doesn't bring the same sense of accomplishment or satisfaction that working as a journalist did. I truly believe we were making an impact in the lives of our readers and that there was a significance to our efforts, especially in the area I was focused. I worked in high school sports for a little more than a year after the Rocky closed, and not a day went by that I didn't hear from someone about how much they missed RockyPreps, as well as the Rocky overall. It was nice, but hard to hear at the same time. And as I'm sure you will hear from just about everyone who responds: I think about the Rocky everyday and still miss it and the people I worked with very much.

Personally, my new endeavors are not as encompassing as before, so I do have more quality time to spend with my family. Although there is some travel, there are very few nights or weekends, and when I leave work for the day, that's pretty much it. That has been a welcome change.

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Heather Pitzel

Part-time presentation editor, now teaching English in Cairo. Life somewhat better

With the move to Cairo, I got the personal and professional challenges I sought as well as lots of new travels around the world and amazing new friends. But I do miss having the time to keep a hand in professional journalism. And, of course, I miss family, friends, pork products, good wines and beers, and the athletic activities that abound in Colorado. Sandboarding is just not quite the same as skiing.

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Steve Foster

Assistant sports editor/web, now doing marketing/design/pr for Ten|10 Group. Life somewhat better

More different than better, perhaps better suited to my work habits. While I miss the benefits and the camaraderie of the newsroom, the sports desk in my final incarnation at the Rocky in particular, my current situation has given me the flexibility to work at my own pace and on my own schedule, something I enjoy far more than anticipated. Sometimes I am slammed with work and get to feel the deadline pressure again, but other times when things are slow or I'm between projects, I can use the time to work on personal projects and do some writing. The past two years were a scary period, but we were prepared and have emerged with a scaled back life and new careers. That we are out of journalism has alone made our lives somewhat better because we no longer have the uncertainty of our jobs hanging over us wherever we go and we are able to settle in one place.

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Bernie Lincicome

Sports columnist, now retired

John,

Sorry this is tardy but I find it very hard to reminisce about the Rocky. Still, I made the deadline. Never missed one.

Short answers to your questions. 1 - No. 2-5 - Moot. 6-retired. 7-Moot. 8 - 1/3 the income 9 Moved by choice, sold at a loss. No. 10. Irrelevant. That's me, not the question. The daily feeling I have is one of irrelevance. I tried blogging for a while, mostly out of habit, partly from denial. It was just calisthenics with no game to play.

I wrote a novel, still unpublished, and I moved back to Chicago to be near our only grandchild. I am living in Glencoe, Il, 60022. I was in Hawaii in September for several days, prior to taking a cruise to Australia through Tahiti. I thought about reaching out to you but could not overcome my feeling of envy.

I have done some freelance work, but, to be honest, have not worked very hard at finding more.

I hope you are well and that your path to retirement is as happy as was mine working for you at the Rocky. Oh, crap. There I reminisced. Just an old softy after all.

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Mary Chandler

Art and architecture writer, now working for Fentress Architects as a writer/researcher. Life different, not better or worse

I have completed two books in 15 months for the firm, and have now temporarily shifted over to new business development, which includes proposal writing — pretty fascinating stuff. Life just different, not better or worse.

I still really miss the public voice I developed over the years, and am sad to see that some of the areas I covered aren’t really addressed by the remaining daily newspaper. But there’s not much I can do about it, except realize how they do NOT cover their city.

On the other hand, I have learned so much about a a different type of writing, working in different areas with a totally diffeent group of people. I love that learning is still a big part of my life, and enjoy the new people I have met. Their commitment and smarts.

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Melissa Pomponio

Presentation editor and chairman of the Newspaper Guild unit at the Rocky, now studying for a master's in teaching. Life is somewhat worse

I don't think my life will ever be the same after the experience I had at the Rocky. Don't get me wrong, my family and I are doing fine. I'm excited about graduating with my master's degree and becoming a secondary English teacher. My children have reaped the benefits of having their mom at home to provide school, sports and activities support. I've been able to become more involved in parent and church groups. I answered "somewhat worse" because the rich intellectual, collaborative and caring environment I've lost since the Rocky has closed leaves a hole in my life that can never be refilled. The Rocky was my fourth paper in my 21 years in the business. In every newsroom, there has to be some level of cooperation and camaraderie to produce something worthy of being thrown on the doorsteps every single morning. The large staff at the Rocky could have led to an environment in which interactions were limited or impersonal, but it didn't. I'll always think of the staff as one big family — one that was supportive and constructive even though there were times when we would grumble at each other. You just can't duplicate the kind of energy that existed at the Rocky in any newsroom or any other place of business for that matter. The Rocky every day was the product of a uniquely talented staff driven to find new and interesting ways of presenting the news for the benefit of our readers. We will all carry the spirit of the history of the Rocky and the community we served wherever we end up.

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Hereward Bradley

Presentation editor, now working at the convention center. Life better

The turmoil, uncertainty, and frustration with all that went on leading up to the Rocky's closing have all since vanished. I am now 61 and enjoying life in what I call "semiretirement." I work part time for Argus, a company that helps staff the Convention Center during trade shows and various exhibits. As I mentioned in question 6, the pay is low, but the folks for the most part are very nice, and I have the option of picking the days I wish to work. And, as I have told my friends, the job helps me get out of the house. I would be remiss if I didn't say I miss the pay I received at the Rocky, but I am fortunate to have a wonderful wife who has a full-time job that allows me to be on her health benefits. We've cut back on some spending, but nothing drastic. If anything, the changes have allowed us to see our children and grandchildren more often, and to enjoy each other's company more as we head into retirement in the not-too-distant future. To sum it up: life is good.

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Michelle Quintana-Zarbock

HR generalist and executive assistant to the editor/publisher, now working as Victory Church Office Manager. Life different

Life isn't better and it's really not the same but in all fairness I can't say life is worse either. It's definitely harder and I work harder than I ever have before. I loved my job and the people at the Rocky, and I miss it. I've learned to simplify and do with out certain things that I had before. One thing I know for sure is, I am employed now and am blessed beyond measure to have a job in this economy! Perhaps once I graduate I will find my place and with all the work experience, maybe great things will come. I have great faith and that is my hope!

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A staffer who declined to have name made public. Life somewhat worse

I work fewer hours, I rarely work weekends and for the past two years I've actually spent Xmas with my family - which never happened at the News. So on paper, my life should be somewhat better.

Where I feel the biggest difference, though, is in how I feel inside about my job, my co-workers, and my greater role in this community and this world. It sounds kitschy - and I recognize that I sometimes romanticize about life at the Rocky. It wasn't all fun and love, and there were days I wanted to scream (and did). But at the end of most days, I felt like we at the News played a vital role in people's lives every single day - and we did it in such a collaborative, supportive way. I don't feel as if I'm making that kind of contribution anymore. As much as I try not to define myself by my job, that single fact has greatly affected how I feel about myself. And that "somewhat worse" feeling outweighs everything else.

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Liz Nayadley

Imager, now studying echocardiography. Life somewhat better

The Rocky closing really made me reconsider my career path and goals. I enjoyed working there and learned so much. The work we were doing at the paper felt important to the community and I wanted to continue in that direction after the closing. I have since gone back to school for echocardiography (ultrasound of the heart). In this field I could transfer my skills in imaging and photography to the medical field and feel like I am helping people in the community.

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Mike Noe

Internet editor, now working as senior director of recruitment for examiner.com. Life somewhat better.

Overall, I feel I'm doing better. I own a bigger place and now have more money. I also have more time to spend with my friends and family. I certainly enjoy those aspects of my life. I also feel I've learned more and have a broader set of skills since leaving journalism. However, I recently talked with an old friend from the Rocky about how much I missed having a job that gave me a sense of purpose. Odd I know, since I spent a great deal of time dealing with the technical hurdles of getting news and information online. However, I enjoyed working with a team on stories that really had an impact on the community. Now, I spend the majority of my time analyzing spreadsheets to improve the recruitment and retention of thousands of writers across North America. I also miss the overall control I had with RockyMountainNews.com. Though I worked within the larger organization/newsroom, I had a considerable amount of discretion to develop new features and work closely with my team on the creative aspects of what we were building.

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Bob Findlay

Assistant news editor, now retired

My wife and I had saved aggressively for retirement, and so far there has been no drop in our lifestyle. I do worry more, however, about affording such things as travel or new ski boots. I would have preferred to build the nest egg a little longer, and am on the lookout for freelance opportunities and other ways to make a little extra spending money.

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Jay Quadracci

Assistant photo editor, now working construction on the Eastern Plains of Colorado. Life somewhat better

Somewhat better, as in I'm not sitting in an office every day, a situation that wasn't good for my health. I've lost a lot of weight and I'm in the best shape of my life. We are living month-to-month, making ends meet while I interview with fire departments. I also have the seasonal work of being a wildland fire fighter. I did take the path less traveled for a 45-year-old, but that's another story for another time.

As Dean Krakel and I would joke on the Photo Desk on an almost daily basis, "The plane is off the runway, but we haven't cleared the trees yet. If we do, then it'll be a good flight. If not, the crash will be spectacular!"

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Brian Clark

Assistant presentation editor, now working as communications coordinator, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), University of Colorado at Boulder. Life about the same

First of all I want to say I still have a beautiful, healthy family, so life is good.

That said, after 18 months of piecing together income I am glad to be back at work, but the job I have now gives off a totally different vibe. I'm in academia, so I really have to create my own deadline pressures. I've always been someone who thrives on deadline, but things here move at a glacial pace. I'm still in the communications field, but more of a PR slant.

The day I realized my job was really going to be different was this summer while driving to work the day the Four Mile Fire in Boulder Canyon really kicked up. All the way up I was imagining how busy my office was going to be, given that we are an environmental institute and the fires were in our backyard. In my mind I was still in breaking news mode, but when I got to my office it was business as usual. A research institute isn't really concerned with covering breaking news.

On an unrelated note, I don't think I have fully processed all that we lost in 2009, but I have little moments along the way. I recently watched season 5 of The Wire, which focused heavily on the newspaper industry, and I would find myself getting a little choked up during many of the newsroom scenes, especially when everyone would gather around the news desk and learn about layoffs and cutbacks.

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Lisa Bornstein

Theater critic/feature writer, now teaching fourth-grade at Denver Jewish Day school. Life much better

My current job treats people with more respect than what I saw at the Rocky. I was bored the last few years at the Rocky and in my new field I am creatively and intellectually stimulated and feel that my efforts are valued. But I miss my friends in the newsroom a lot. I also miss going to work after it was light out.

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Michael Mehle

Assistant features editor, now working as a fifth-grade teacher. Life about the same

To say things are "about the same" isn't quite accurate, since nothing is at all the same. But while some elements of my post-Rocky career are more challenging, demanding and stressful, other aspects are more rewarding and engaging. I'm still flexing my head, earning a paycheck and constantly tackling immediate and long-term challenges as an integral part of my job - so I'd have to say it's all about the same.

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Darin McGregor

Photographer, now general manager of the Southern Sun Pub and Brewery. Life about the same

The answer to #10 is complicated and has been in constant flux since the day that the Rocky changed. I am sorry, but I am about to pour it out for you. I cannot sum this up. You have to hear the whole thing.

When the Rocky closed my wife Sarah and I had a one-month-old baby, a two-year-old and were already a single income family. I knew that I had to move fast to provide for my family. I also knew that journalism was in a time of uncertainty. For those reasons I chose to completely turn my back on a career that I had pursued singlemindedly for most of my entire adult life. I had never even considered doing anything else and suddenly I found myself walking away.

At first that decision came with a tremendous amount of shame. But I had no time for shame. My family needed me to be strong.

Within a week I had an interview with Kevin, a former employer of mine and his associates. I had worked with him managing his brew pub as I worked my way through journalism school. The interview went well and we discussed the possibility of me filling a general manager position. They did have their doubts though. It had been 10 years since I had worked in restaurants and they asked "can you be passionate about restaurants? Your passion is photography."

"No. I am not passionate about restaurants, but I am passionate about leadership. And no, my passion is not photography, it is and always has been people."

That was good enough to get me the job, not as GM, no I needed to prove myself first. A week later I started as a line cook. For two months I worked in a kitchen flipping burgers, making fries scrubbing dishes. Again the shame crept back into my heart.

Next, I was moved onto the floor of the restaurant as a server. This was easier work physically, but more tough on me in other ways. At least in the kitchen I could hide. No one saw me. Now I was out front and regularly saw friends and colleagues. Everyone could see that I had given up.

Each night I would go home late and my family would be asleep. I would kiss them all goodnight, have maybe one too many drinks and try to push past all the regret to prepare myself for the next day.

As time went on things got easier. I love people and enjoy making people's day. The job could be fun as long as I didn't think too much.

At the same time my mind would still occasionally wander, usually late at night. I wondered why I hadn't heard anything from my friend, the restaurant owner. How long was this tryout going to last? Had he forgotten about me? Had I turned away from $400+ a week in unemployment just to toil for about that much as a lowly restaurant server? Had I made a mistake? Did they know what I had done before this? I have shaken the hands of powerful people, photographed events others only watched on tv. I had stared into the face of death and tragedy and was there to bear witness to some of the greatest moments of people's lives! Now. It was "would you like some more water?" What had I done???

Things continued on this way until one day I got a call from Kevin. He wanted me to interview to run his largest brew pub that was located in south Boulder. By the next week I found myself driving to Boulder, my hometown, to start as the general manager of the Southern Sun Pub and Brewery.

Life as a restaurant manager isn't easy. First, I work a lot, probably 65 hours a week. Secondly, as gm there is nothing that is not your job. I hire/fire, train, wait tables, host, cook, do dishes, maintain a million dollar facility, handle all payroll, health insurance, controlling costs, unclog toilets, etc., etc. Not to mention that I have 65 employees with an average age of about 23 and they are a wondrously wild bunch.

At first the sheer magnitude of the job was more than I could fathom. I had never done anything like it, more people, more work, more to remember. It challenged me to my outer limits.

It felt great to be challenged.

I have been the GM for about 18 months now. The story of that time could be equally long, but unfortunately I don't have time to continue. Ultimately, I am now pretty happy, mainly because I have come to a few conclusions.

1. I had let journalism become my identity. That was foolish. No single thing defines me.

2. I like people and I am a natural leader in any field.

3. I am strong. Going forward into what is almost surely to be uncertain times for this country I know that I am capable of doing anything necessary to survive and provide for my family. All of the shame I went through has finally resulted in a stronger sense of self-esteem. There's nothing I can't or won't do.

Sorry this has been so long. I am sure it is incomplete and the spelling/grammar are horrible. But it is what you get from me as I sit on my couch still in my pajamas the morning after a late night at work. It is also honest.

****

Sam Adams

Sports columnist, now working as a standup comic

My life since the Rocky closed is very unstable - which to very small extent is all right since I'm a single guy. Literally, I'm living hour-to-hour - the calendar is like a puzzle that I'm trying to complete with gigs monthly so I can pay the bills. On the flip side, as a "hustler" I answer to me. No deadlines! There was a lot of pressure to produce as a journalist. There's a lot pressure to perform as a comedian. The audiences pay expecting me to make them laugh. So far, I've been pretty good at it. I miss the steady paycheck aspect of working at the paper, and in these times, if I were to be offered some full-time media work (in Denver or maybe even elsewhere) I'd have to take a long, hard look. However, the opportunity to match my salary at the Rocky exists as long as I'm booked for 7-10 good-paying gigs a month. When that happens, I can sit at home and watch Price is Right during the day while John Elway tries to figure out how to get his beloved Broncos out of the abyss.

I will e-mail you a clip from my DVD that will be out some time in February, titled "Right to Laugh" ... It was taped last July (yeah, long time processing, I know) at Denver's Comedy Works South. The work of two sold-out shows combined into one 50-minute DVD.

****

Marie (requested that her last name not be used)

Imager, now has her own photo business. Life different

My life is not better or worse, but different. As a young professional, the Rocky was my first and longest job associated with a career. It's where I came to understand the movie Office Space. I was also maturing learning about a sense of trust and community in the work place, so to speak. I made friends and shared ideas even in the smallest of ways on a daily basis. It's one thing to work in a career and branch out when things are built up and ready, it's another when your not and in hard economic times. I enjoy the freedom of working for myself and having the drive to push knowing it's just me. Sometimes, I miss the structure and the camaraderie of working with others, even if it's just the simple question of, how are you doing today. Maybe it is all because I was fortunate to work with some wonderful people and miss the small nuances of a dynamic work environment. Working for myself has made me stronger in the sense that the accountability is on me and the only thing worse then letting your team down is letting your self down.

****

Shirl Kasper

Part-time presentation editor, now working part-time as a historian for National Park Service and finishing a doctorate. Life somewhat worse

I enjoy my work at the National Park Service (currently writing a travel itinerary on historic dams). The job, especially because it promises to lead to a full-time position if one becomes available, has been a godsend. However, I miss the bond with people in the newsroom and that feeling of being a part of what was going on in Denver. Life hasn't changed all that much since the Rocky closed (except for a payscale that went from $32 an hour to $20) because I have continued in the doctoral program at CU-Boulder. I'll graduate this May -- and then life really will change. What's ahead I have no idea. Might teach, might try to stay with the Park Service or another government agency, might try to start a free-lance historical writing business. What's curious is the way I go to the journalism jobs Website every now and then -- which I figure says a lot about where my heart still lies. Looking back, the best job I ever had was as a feature writer at The Kansas City Star, talking to everyone and anyone and then getting to craft it into a story.

2 comments:

  1. This is a question: When I worked at the Rocky (about the time you were in grade school) we didn't have "presentation editors." Apparently from above, you had lots of them. Is it the same as a "makeup editor?"

    Even though I am only an old alum, I believe I feel their pain. I enjoyed my time at the News and wouldn't have left except I was drafted to write on the manned space program. -- billkostka@gmail.com

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  2. I really miss the Rocky, and journalism in general. I especially miss my co-workers (who were like family) and the feeling of pride when such a talented team of people come together working toward a common goal.
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