Thursday, February 24, 2011

Stories of Rocky Mountain News Staff Who Are Still Working as Journalists


They're in Denver and D.C., Grand Junction and Ghana.


People who were on the editorial staff of the Rocky Mountain News on its last day are working as journalists across the country and across the globe.


In Cincinnati, Nairobi, Los Angeles, Gilroy, Colorado Springs, Raleigh, Chicago, Louisville, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Albuquerque, Corpus Christi, Toronto, Pueblo, Las Vegas, New York, Salt Lake, Lincoln, Australia, Korea and Guadalupe County, N.M., too.


Of the 146 former staff members who responded to a survey about their lives two years after the paper closed, 92 said they're still working as journalists. (Read the main story about the survey on this blog and a related story at TheAtlantic). (Read the stories of staff who left journalism. Read about what happened to the owners of the two papers.)


Here are a few themes that emerged in their reflections on life after the Rocky.

  • Financial Worries. "There have been very few days and nights and middle of the nights during the past two years when I have not worried about money," wrote Dean Krakel, former director of photography now working as a photo editor at The Denver Post.
  • Worries about age. "This might seem venal, but as one enters fully into middle age you realize that you have fewer and fewer earning years before you. As hard as this recession is on young people trying to launch careers, it may be even tougher on older workers, who are seeing what ought to be some of the prime earning years of their lives frittered away," wrote Hank Schultz, former presentation editor now working as managing editor of Functional Ingredients magazine.
  • Determination. "In short, while the closure of the Rocky has not made my life easier, nor more comfortable, it has allowed me to put all my accumulated skills to use FOR MYSELF (as a sole proprietor) and for A GREATER GOOD (a community's survival). In short, I am doing what I am supposed to be doing, where I am supposed to be doing it at a time that is critical for our community. Oh, and I am finding that even in perhaps the worst economy in generations and in one of the hardest-hit places at that, newspapering is still a profitable business -- more profitable by the week. Public service pays. Who knew?" This from M.E. Sprengelmeyer, former Washington, D.C., correspondent now owner of the Guadalupe County Communicator, a weekly newspaper in New Mexico.
  • Loss. "I definitely miss the Rocky. It's somewhat depressing to think that I'll probably never work with such an amazing, dynamic cast of characters at any point in my future. I hear stories other peoples' work experiences and nothing comes close to comparing. Oh well, I guess we'll just have to see," Matthew Roberts, multimedia producer who's studying computer science.
  • Anger. "I grew up and worked in newspapers for 20-some years. And it's depressing to see the "product" the other paper in town puts out and know that we had the vast superior quality of product. Hell, you could still click on the Rocky website and it's superior to that of the other publication. And that's been evident each and every day the past two years, from their print product to their website," a Rocky staffer who wrote on the condition of anonymity.
  • Appreciation of a job in a newsroom. "When I sometimes hear the normal everyday grumbling of my new colleagues, I wonder if they realize how fortunate they are to be working for a great organization making good money in the profession that we all love and how quickly that can be taken away if we are not mindful," wrote John Sopinski, a graphic artist now working for Globe and Mail in Toronto.
  • Appreciation of newfound freedom. "I have grown to love the freedom of time to develop skills and invest in myself. That time has been invaluable. Working for the RMN was very demanding and would not have allowed the time I needed to grow," wrote Barry Gutierrez, a staff photographer now working as a freelancer.
  • Appreciation of what the Rocky gave many of us. "I still miss the work we did and the community we were at the Rocky. I’m privileged and thankful to have been a part of that. It's the foundation from which I am moving forward," wrote Kathy Bogan, former presentation director now working as group design director for Nation Media Group in Nairobi, Kenya.

Here they are, in their own words


*****


Barry Forbis

Sports editor, now sports editor at Cincinnati Enquirer

Life a lot worse now


Put our house on the market shortly after the Rocky closed, sold it in Aug. 2009, bought a house in Orlando in Nov. 2009, thinking the real estate market in Florida had bottomed out. It hadn't, as I learned in Nov. 2010, when I took a big loss on that house. We're renting in Cincinnati while we regroup financially.


Professionally, it's not much worse, but when I had to leave Colorado, I had to leave behind my two older children, who live with their mother. We see each other now on holidays or when school is out. Also, we left behind a lot of friends and family in Colorado (my wife is a Colorado native) and now are in our second location in less than two years.


****


Tess Furey

Wire editor, now working part-time as a columnist at Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

Couldn't quantify how life has changed


Hard to quantify because it doesn't fit into a category. Better because we are so close to the beautiful outdoors here on the Western Slope... warmer winters, stunning views and geological formations. Better because I'm writing again now, dusting off my rusty skills and having fun with it. Worse, because I am only working part-time with the fear that newspaper economic forces might change our situation again, the sword hanging above my head. And, I miss my newspaper family.


****


Mike Littwin

Columnist, now doing the same job for The Denver Post


I still miss the Rocky every day. But I am very fortunate to have been able to stay in Denver and replicate, for the most part, the job I had at the Rocky (although I don’t get nearly as much help coming up with my closer).

You can use my name, my age, my height, my weight and anything else you need


****


Kathy Bogan

Presentation director, now Group Design Editor for Nation Media Group in Nairobi, Kenya

Life is somewhat better



I was tempted to say my life now is “much better” but that would be comparing it to the 17 months before I started full-time work again, not before the Rocky closed.


The transition from Feb. 27, after my initial exhilaration at new possibilities, became this: a sense of worthlessness that grew as I sent out more than a hundred resumes, coupled with viral uncertainty about the future. Platitudes like “everything happens for a reason” and “look for the positive in it” and “you’ll be a better person for it” were fodder for cynical laughter.


I reminded myself that it could be worse – I did not lose a home, still eked out the college tuition payments for my sons, we had our health, my spouse was working. I could see colleagues whose lives seemed to crumble. But I think many if not most of us went through times when the loss ripped us open.


I cobbled together an assortment of part-time gigs – teaching, photo research, the occasional design project – and in between took web design classes, worked out religiously, climbed mountains, had leisurely lunches with friends, made some art, tried my best to make the most of what was happening NOW as opposed to mourning the past, but looking back, it felt like a waiting room, flipping through out-of-date copies of People magazine, anticipating a diagnosis that never came. Limbo.


Then I stumbled across a cryptic posting on a job board (“Design editor needed in foreign country; apply here”) and said what the hell. Anything anywhere was better than tossing resumes into the ozone for jobs I didn’t really want in the first place. Almost a year after the Rocky closed, I was ready to ditch every expectation; in some ways it felt like I already had.


When I got the contract, excitement surpassed relief. We were headed to Africa.


I am fortunate to be working full time, to be working in a newsroom again, in a place that is challenging and full of surprises -- refreshing, aggravating, intriguing -- in the office and in everyday life. Here hawkers tout at least four dailies in the traffic jams all day, there’s a news stand on every sidewalk, the news seems to be part of the daily diet, and print still dominates. After all, dozens of people can share the pages, and do, at 40 shillings (about 50 cents) a pop.


Mobile is the future. Virtually everyone has a cell phone; it’s how they keep in touch, how they do their banking, how they get their news and entertainment. My news group has just begun to assert itself on that platform.


So, I have again journalistic challenges, the opportunity to change lives through information, and a window on culture like we had in Denver. It’s better because it’s new; because it requires global perspective.


To say life’s “much better,” fulfilling though it is, would go too far. I still miss the work we did and the community we were at the Rocky. I’m privileged and thankful to have been a part of that. It's the foundation from which I am moving forward.


****


Kevin Huhn

Deputy sports editor, now working at copy chief for FOXSports.com in Los Angeles

Life is somewhat worse


I was given an amazing opportunity by FOXSports.com to learn valuable web skills that I hadn't previously acquired. I'm also being given the opportunity to create, from scratch, a copy desk. I have to laugh because an entity in the web industry that continues to hurt newspapers approached me about helping "build a traditional style newspaper copy desk." Really? What's wrong with this picture? Anyway, professionally I have no complaints because I've been given an opportunity in which I'm being paid to learn skills I desperately need. Personally, I miss Denver a lot, which is why I say my life is somewhat worse. But I fully anticipate my current job helping me reposition myself to someday return to Denver in a professional situation that more closely resembles what I had at the Rocky than what I had in the year before I was given my new opportunity.


****


Burt Hubbard

Computer assisted reporter at the Rocky, now working as editorial director of the Rocky Mountain Investigative News Network

Life is the same


I traded the camaraderie of the News and its feistiness for the chance to be part of a start-up, nonprofit approach to investigative/analytical stories as part of a new era in journalism.


****


Lesley Kennedy

Deputy features editor, now News Editor, AOL ParentDish.com and Contributor, AOL StyleList.com

Life about the same


I loved my newspaper job, and still miss it a lot -- like, a lot! -- but, as the mother of two young girls, it's been great to work fewer hours from home, make more money and be able to pick the kids up from school and spend so much time with them. Working from home has been a serious adjustment I'm still not fully used to, but it certainly has its advantages. And, thankfully, I have found work that is still fun, creative and fulfilling. Knock on wood.

****

B.G. Brooks

CU beat reporter, now contributing editor of a website about CU sports

Life about the same

While my income is less, so is the daily pressure. I'm looking at that as somewhat of a fair trade-off, although we've cut back a bit on expenditures and have done some financial compensating. We're not scrimping by any means, but our disposable income isn't what it was. However, I'm very fortunate in that I found employment with benefits (a huge factor) fairly fast, was able to continue writing (with a few in-house restrictions, of course) and was able to remain in Colorado. Patti and I were at a point in our lives where neither of us -- having firm roots here that include grand-kids -- wanted to leave the state. I miss the Rocky and 30-plus years of friendships, but thus far things have worked out well for us. I won't complain.


****


Matthew Roberts

Multimedia producer, now working freelance

Life is somewhat better

....included photo of family and another of his son


It's important to note that my life would probably still qualify as "Somewhat Better" if the Rocky were still around though.


While I've been enjoying freelance journalism work since the Rocky closed, this comes with a bit of a caveat.

I decided to go back to school and get another undergraduate degree in Computer Science. I'll be finishing that up at Metro this Spring, at which point I'll be starting a Computer Science Systems Engineering graduate program at DU. The more I've gotten into programming and development, the more I've found that I absolutely love it. This will mean a career change, and I've already made started to make that adjustment. I've taken down my freelance site so that no one else will contact me via the Web, and I have enough projects lined up to see me through the end of Spring. I won't be accepting any additional freelance work at this point.


Life after the Rocky has been great. Financially, there has been some worry from time to time, but we've been able to thrive nonetheless. About a year after the Rocky closed, my son, Holland David Roberts, was born. Freelance and school have allowed me to spend much more time at home with Holland than I would have if I'd had full-time employment somewhere.


I've attached a portrait of Amanda, Holland and myself I shot this past summer and a more recent one of Holland. Family is definitely the most important thing in my life and I can't imagine a better place to grow up than Denver surrounded by the wonderful state of Colorado. I've turned down some excellent job offers with great organizations because it would mean moving to another state. If a radical career change is what it takes to stay in Denver, that's not a problem.


I definitely miss the Rocky. It's somewhat depressing to think that I'll probably never work with such an amazing, dynamic cast of characters at any point in my future. I hear stories other peoples' work experiences and nothing comes close to comparing. Oh well, I guess we'll just have to see.


****


Jon Perez

Presentation editor, now city editor/online editor the Gilroy Dispatch

Life somewhat worse


Working at the Rocky was great professionally and personally. While I didn’t always agree with the direction my career was going, I was able to provide for my family and live the life I always wanted with an emphasis on family life. The Rocky was a means and a career where I felt I was at one of the best papers and was one of the better page designers in my field. As a journalist, I wish for the days of a newsroom of having top journalists in every capacity as its No. 1 resource to make its news organization great. Sadly, I don’t see the Rocky newsroom culture happening again at a newspaper until we figure out how to be profitable in the new media environment.

--------


John Ensslin

General assignment reporter, now legal affairs reporter at Gazette in Colorado Springs

Life somewhat better


I feel like I'm doing some of the best work I've done in years. I'm especially pleased at the way I've been able to reinvent the beat through live blogging and a court blog I've developed called the Sidebar.

I also feel that I've "doubled-down" on my commitment to journalism. Earlier this year I was elected national secretary-treasurer of the Society of Professional Journalist, an outfit whose mission I strongly believe in. SPJ continues to do important work in supporting journalists around the country and improving the craft under adverse economic circumstances.

I'll be running for President-elect in October at our national convention in New Orleans. If the delegates see fit, I'll be national president in two years. Wish me luck.

****


M.E. Sprengelmeyer

Washington correspondent, now publisher and reporter at The Communicator in Guadalupe County, N.M.

Life is much better


My work as a small-town newspaper publisher is more fulfilling to me than anything I did in my previous life as a journalist. I work many times harder, and much longer hours to accomplish this, but in a small town environment I get far more feedback from readers than at any time during my 22 years as a reporter for other people's newspapers. The county that constitutes my coverage area is among the poorest in the nation (in terms of poverty rate, 79th out of 3,000-plus counties), and so the stories that we do highlighting the situation, calling attention to needed economic development and government reforms, holding public officials accountable for their action or inaction, etc., all are critical. We are providing scrutiny that has never been here before at this level, fulfilling a role that would be lost entirely if we were not here. It cannot be duplicated by any other medium, especially not the Internet. We are building a real connection to our community, gradually increasing the sort of "tough love" journalism that this community needs in order to get through a very, very difficult economic period -- one that threatens to turn the community into a ghost town. In short, while the closure of the Rocky has not made my life easier, nor more comfortable, it has allowed me to put all my accumulated skills to use FOR MYSELF (as a sole proprietor) and for A GREATER GOOD (a community's survival). In short, I am doing what I am supposed to be doing, where I am supposed to be doing it at a time that is critical for our community. Oh, and I am finding that even in perhaps the worst economy in generations and in one of the hardest-hit places at that, newspapering is still a profitable business -- more profitable by the week. Public service pays. Who knew? Watch for our expansion by the end of 2011.

****

Rick Henderson

Editorial writer, now managing editor of Carolina Journal

Life much better

I was an editorial writer at the Rocky. I'm the managing editor of Carolina Journal. I assign and edit stories, post articles on the website, write news stories, editorials, and columns, shoot and modify photographs for print and the Web, and serve as traffic cop. I also appear on talk radio with some frequency, and make public speaking appearances.


I hesitate saying "much better," because my time at the Rocky had been the most rewarding professional experience I had enjoyed. Until now. But I landed on my feet. I was able to return to my home state and take charge of a publication that was making the transition from monthly print to near-daily print and online. The staff has roughly doubled since I arrived, so I'm supervising four full-time writers (including one video reporter) and a dozen freelancers. Our goal is to produce three news stories daily. In 2010, the paper saw five years of investigative reporting pay off, as North Carolina's former governor, Mike Easley, pleaded guilty to a felony charge for campaign finance violations we reported before the mainstream dailies. Gov. Bev Perdue also is under investigation by state prosecutors for campaign violations of her own. Carolina Journal does much more than investigative/scandal stories, and my time here has been both a whirlwind and a delight. I do miss the access and the clout we enjoyed at the Rocky. But we're getting a lot more respect as time goes by. And there's a good deal more stability with my current work than I had in Denver.


Moreover, I'm close to family, my wife (a 30-year Colorado resident) loves North Carolina, and we're really at home here.


-----


Katie McCrimmon

Part-time reporter, now working as a reporter, blogger, photographer, content producer for HealthPolicySolutions.org

Life is about the same.


Professionally, I am doing quite well. I love telling great stories and I have that opportunity again. In the new world of nonprofit online journalism, I am learning an array of skills including photography (ha!) and simple web design. My brain is stretched every day. I miss the banter among funny, talented people in our newsroom along with the Rocky's excellent photographers. But, I feel privileged to continue to work as a journalist in Denver covering critical health issues.


****


Ed Sealover

Reporter, now reporting for the Denver Business Journal

Life about the same.


"About the same" doesn't really answer the question, but I can't say life is better or worse.


I miss working at the Rocky and having that mammoth audience of readers. But at the same time, I like the challenge of helping to increase the readership here at the DBJ - something we have done since the Rocky closed.


At times during the past election season, I missed the thrill of jumping in my car and following a candidate halfway across the state (we covered only events in the Denver metro area at the DBJ). At the same time, I liked an election season where I actually got to go home and see my wife every once in a while, and I know she liked that too.


I love the kindness of my fellow staffers here, but I sometimes miss the buzz of the big newsroom, where 20 things were happening at once and you knew you were bound to get swept up in it.


I don't so much miss 14-hour days, which come a lot more rarely when we have a narrower focus on business issues and don't have to cover every nine-hour legislative committee hearing on the death penalty. One of the great things about having more personal time is that I can engage in more personal projects. For example, my first book, a guide to Colorado breweries, is set to come out in July, and I'm not sure if I could have found the time to research and write it while working at the Rocky.


I miss telling people that I work at the Rocky and hear them reply how it's their favorite paper and how they've read it since they were a little kid. But I also love telling people that I work at the Denver Business Journal and hearing them explain how much they've come to appreciate our paper, especially since the Rocky closed.


So, there's good, there's bad. I really do love what I'm doing now. But I do miss the Rocky. Take what you will from that. Overall, though, I'm just glad I had the experience I did at the Rocky, even if it was only for its last 7-1/2 months.


****

John Moore

Presentation editor, now copy editor at The (Louisville) Courier-Journal

Life about the same

After nearly a year in Louisville, I'm still loving the city and being back in a newsroom. I miss the mountains of Colorado, but I love the South and how green Kentucky gets in the spring and summer.


****


Barry Gutierrez

Photographer, now working freelance for AP and others

Life somewhat better


I miss the fast pace of being staff photojournalist, as well as the camaraderie, banter and deadline pressure that comes with a newsroom. However, I have grown to love the freedom of time to develop skills and invest in myself. That time has been invaluable. Working for the RMN was very demanding and would not have allowed the time I needed to grow. Teaching and giving back to students has been a great expression of my heart. It has given my time and experience at the RMN value. It has given me a chance to reflect and absorb what I have leaned as a staff Photojournalist. Working as a freelance photojournalist and commercial photographer has been very rewarding, but not always fulfilling. I have found that sometimes working for clients can be quite restricting and at times unchallenging artistically. I miss the documentary style photography on a daily basis and am in the process of reinstating this passion into my daily life. One of my outlets has been freelancing for the Associated Press on a regular basis.


These past two years have been very difficult both personally and professionally, but I have never been overcome by challenges. I welcome them. I learned from my father a long time ago that you judge a man's character, not when he is up and doing well, but when he is down and struggling. Along with the strength of my wife we have shown great character through these last two years. I am proud of our progress. I hope that our family will become more of a light to others as our journey continues. And with the addition of our first child Sol Sebastian Gutierrez, the focus of our life has never been more certain. Parenthood has been awesome. To all of our dear RMN colleagues Fairlight and I send our Love. May 2011 be more about progress than survival.


****


Ed Stein

Editorial cartoonist, now doing a strip for United Features Syndicate

Life is much different


While I enjoy not having to get up and go to the office every day, and don't miss the stress of daily deadlines (and of the constant uncertainty of the last years at the Rocky), I do find working at home isolating; I miss the collegiality and stimulation of the newsroom, especially when there's breaking news. The first election night not in a newsroom in more than 30 years was disconcerting. I very much miss working on local stories, and the connection with readers. Even though the Post runs both my editorial cartoons and the comic strip, there's no direct contact with readers and local sources. In other ways, life goes on in new directions; I spend more time with my wife and friends, my schedule is my own, and drawing a nationally-syndicated comic strip and creating my own blog/website both present new and interesting challenges.


Read "Freshly Squeezed" .


****


Mark Humbert

Presentation editor, now working as editor-publisher Local Color (monthly) magazine, The Daily Post (online news sheet) and, since July 30, 2009, The Banner (weekly newspaper)

Life is somewhat worse


I work very hard, writing, editing, taking photos, dealing in some ways with every aspect of publishing ... it seems like every week I quit or fire myself and think about getting a "real job" and then come back and do it all over. I love the work — or most of it, but have to struggle to make sure we are the best publications in Brighton every day, week, month. The hardest part is keeping the Banner Web site up to date.

And it's amazing we are holding our own without a real ad rep.


****


Bruce Leaf

Presentation editor, now a reporter for Longmont Ledger and Examiner.com, as well as teaching

Life somewhat worse


Besides working as a reporter, I tutor students at Front Range Community College in Longmont in writing and journalism. Also, a producer hired me to rewrite a screenplay slated for production, which I’m doing right now.


My income doesn’t compare to what I made at the Rocky, but the gratitude I receive from the Front Range students when they understand how to write a good sentence or a complete paragraph is wonderful. I have written two screenplays and rewritten four others. One of them took first place in the drama category of the 2010 Page International Screenwriting Awards. That honor led to the producer hiring me to rewrite a script that has financial backing and is set for production. This is the proverbial “foot in the door” in Hollywood, which I hope will lead to options, sales and additional rewrites. Only time will tell. The demise of the Rocky gave me more time to work on my scripts and allowed me to gain this foothold in the movie business.

****

Judy DeHaas

Photographer, now director of photography at San Francisco Chronicle

Life much different


My title at the Rocky was really whatever I wanted it to be, thanks to Janet Reeves and John Temple, who encouraged me to not only shoot photos, but to expand my skills into multimedia, production, editing, coaching and mentoring. It was a situation that I know was rare, as managers usually like to keep people within a boundary. I was hired at the Denver Post as a staff photographer, because that is the only opening they had at the time. So when I was approached to apply for the Director of Photography position at the San Francisco Chronicle, I was very interested in taking my work into yet another realm, this time as a manager – or hopefully more of an inspiration conduit!


(I made 25% less then I did at the Rocky at the Denver Post, if that matters or not.)


I feel that the closure of the Rocky Mountain News combined with having to start a new job the next day at the Denver Post was very traumatizing for me. I wished I had had some time to process that situation. I remember when I told you that I had a job at the Post and someone actually caught it on film. I was so conflicted. I was also the last person hired, which was in and of itself, traumatic. I could go into much more detail but feel that it would be best to just be thankful that I had a job, considering I was the main breadwinner for a family of four, I had a two year old and my husband was in graduate school. My marriage did end, a year after the Rocky’s closure, and I am sure the trauma of that experience contributed to its demise but was not the sole reason. I am thrilled to be starting this job as the director of photography at the Chronicle and taking everything that I learned at the Rocky and expanding upon those skills!


****


Tracy Ringolsby

Baseball reporter, now baseball analyst

Life somewhat better


I am under contract to do the pre- and post-game shows on 135 Rockies telecast, write two columns week for FOXSports.com, writely a twice monthly column for Baseball America and remain on a monthly retainer for the MLB Network.


I'd say I am enjoying what I am doing more than I did at the Rocky because the business had changed so much and the emphasis has become being first not factual. The challenge is I am gone from home more than I had been and to be honest, at this age, my hope was to spend more time at home.


****


John Rebchook

Real estate editor, now has his own real estate blog and freelances

Life much better


InsideRealEstateNews.com. My blog is currently sponsored by Universal Lending, Land Title Guarantee, 8z Real Estate, and the Denver Post. I also pick up a little revenue from Google Ads. I also write a monthly newsletter for a real estate company. I've also written several freelance pieces and I will be launching several freelance projects in 2011.


My title is somewhat irrelevant, as I am not part of a corporate structure. I consider myself a content provider. I am also a freelancer and a free agent.


I like being my own boss, working from home, learning about the field of blogging, and generally being more entrepreneurial. I also like having the freedom to invest in the stocks of local companies. Professionally, I miss having copy editors. Also, my health insurance costs have skyrocketed. I miss having paid vacations, too. Although I do not make as much money as I did at the Rocky, hopefully that will change in 2011. I do miss the people at the Rocky, though.


****


Sandra Fish

Part-time presentation editor, now contributing to politicisdaily.com and continuing to teach at University of Colorado

Life the same


I loved working at the Rocky, even on a part-time basis. When the Fourmile Canyon Fire happened on Labor Day, the absence of a cutting-edge news organization was keenly felt. The Rocky would have been all over the fire from the get-go and would have done more than simply update stories on web sites every hour or so, but when there's a media monopoly, there's a lack of creativity and plenty of complacency. So i took to Twitter the first day to update folks on what officials were saying about the fire via scanner traffic. But the rest of the week was frustrating. The Post and the Camera both used a google map - created and crowdsourced by someone else. At one point, the Post had a map that was a JPG of the print map. I know the Rocky would have had a great interactive map and a ton more depth and breadth in their coverage.


So for me, the biggest loss is as a news consumer.


****


Rob Reuteman

Business editor, now freelancing for CNBC.com and FoxBusiness.com

Life somewhat better


I enjoy the flexible schedule, enjoy being able to travel at will. I enjoy writing and reporting. The more I thought about it, when I got out of college, I hoped to make a living as a writer. I got sidetracked into editing and managing for nearly 30 years, but feel

like I have come full circle, in a way. Thanks to technology, it is amazing what I can accomplish from my living room couch, where I am right now.


Through a sort of accident of history, I am also president this year of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, a

3,200-member organization of financial journalists. Freelancing allows me the flexibility to commandeer the organization, spend time on it whenever there is a need.


****


Andy Piper

Presentation editor, now editor and publisher of his own webzine

Life the same, different a better way of putting it


http://www.coloradoseen.com/


This is a tough one - my life is different in many ways but not significantly better or worse overall. I consider myself very, very lucky that the circumstances and timing of the Rocky's closing left me and my wife with constrained but not desperate finances. Emphasize "lucky!" That has given me a cushion to pursue my job searches, and at the same time polish my journalistic skills as a photographer, writer and artist (in addition to my Rocky experience as copy-editor and designer) and develop a track record and make myself more marketable.


Put a different way - I don't know that I miss my "job" at the Rocky as such, because I've been able to find a creative substitute and broaden my experience and horizons. But I do miss the hell out of the people, the newsroom, and the product we made - and always will.


****


Julie Poppen

Part-time reporter, now editor of EdNews Parent (www.ednewsparent.org)

Life somewhat worse


I am missing the sense of camaraderie and structure I had while working at the Rocky. I miss some of the journalism, too, not the death and destruction daily news stories - but the more in-depth stories (such as that massive case of mortgage fraud story I wrote just before the end) that could really open people's eyes and make an impact. I also really miss my colleagues and being in the newsroom. Working at home is tough. I am very productive - but it is tempting to work in your PJs or your workout clothes or whatever and it's a lot harder to draw a clear line between work and the rest of your life. It all smears together, which can cause stress. My husband's job situation changed, too, and he's working at home, so the impact is compounded. And we share the same financial worries that a lot of people have right now.


****


Janet Reeves

Senior Editor for photo and multimedia, now AME/Photo and multimedia/Minneapolis StarTribune

Life different


My life is very different in that I work in one city and my family lives in another. I enjoy the adventure, exploration and challenge of a new town and organization....but it does take its toll living dual lives. Verdict still out on this and how you adapt. Eternally optimistic!!


****


Mark Holm

Assistant photo editor, now working as a freelance photographer

Life is somewhat better


I am much happier on a personal level, being with my wife and in my home of 25 years than I was being apart when I lived in Denver (and New Hampshire, briefly, before that). Having already been through one newspaper closure, I was not interested in looking for another newspaper staff job. I just wanted to regroup with my family and figure out a new path. I knew freelancing would be unfamiliar territory, but it's been working out OK - not great.


The best part, professionally, has been my association with former Rocky D.C. correspondent, M.E. Sprengelmeyer at the weekly Guadalupe County Communicator, which he purchased after the Rocky closed. The experience takes me back to my very first newspaper job, where I was also the first trained photojournalist on the staff, only this time I have the benefit of some (decades) of experience to draw from. The positive response from the community along with the success of a print product during this earthquake in the newspaper world has been rewarding and encouraging.


And it feels good to be shooting again. In eight years as a photo editor, having the privilege of working with such an incredible collection of talented photographers, editors and designers, I'm quite sure I received more than I gave. And I like to think that those associations inform the way I see these days.


Another positive in all of this has been the continuing bond among those of us who went through the closing of the Albuquerque Tribune, exactly a year before the Rocky. Although I wasn't in Denver long enough to make as strong a connection, I see evidence of that bond (on Facebook) among Rocky staffers, too. I think it's been important and therapeutic.


The downside, of course, is that the income and benefits changed dramatically when I became my own boss, which is affecting more people than just me. In short, the view of my career at this end is pretty different than it was at the front end. But it's been inspiring to watch so many of my former colleagues rise to the occasion and reinvent -- or "re-pot" themselves, as my friend Jim Belshaw said his old buddy, the late Tony Hillerman, used to say.


****


Hank Schultz

Presentation editor and web editor, now managing editor at Functional Ingredients magazine, published by New Hope Natural Media

Life the same


At a large organization one's role naturally tends to be more constrained. In my present job I have more responsibility than I used to have and I work harder for less pay. But I get to do some things I was unable to do at my old job, namely write for publication, and I've found that I'm very good at it. I have more pride of ownership now than I did, and I have gotten excellent feedback from my peers and from my contacts within the dietary supplements and natural foods industry. And I have been very fortunate to have found a great bunch of people to work with.


The big factor that balances this out is the level of pay, which is significantly less than what the Rocky used to pay. This might seem venal, but as one enters fully into middle age you realize that you have fewer and fewer earning years before you. As hard as this recession is on young people trying to launch careers, it may be even tougher on older workers, who are seeing what ought to be some of the prime earning years of their lives frittered away. Another, somewhat lesser negative factor is that I have a very long commute (from near Park Meadows to Boulder). This, too, might seem a venal concern, but all those hours in the car add up after a while. And the real estate market is such that I can't justify taking a big hit on real estate just to spend a little less time in the car.


All this being said, I feel very fortunate and grateful. I am able to broaden my skills, experience and contacts, which is all good. And I'm having fun!


****


Taylor Osieczanek

Sports presentation editor, now in same job at Boulder Daily Camera

Life somewhat better


More than anything the Rocky closing helped give me perspective on life in general, but especially the role work playing into that. I just started working at the Camera less than two months ago and my job before that was not at all fulfilling and the pay was terrible. So now, even though I'm making less money than I did at the Rocky, I'm a happier person.


****


George Tanner

Assistant News Editor, now senior news editor at Scripps Central Desk-West in Corpus Christi, Texas

Life somewhat worse

I live in Texas, and my family still lives in Colorado. We lived conservatively (even remaining in Greeley while I worked at the RMN), and that's what is helping us get through this. Maintaining two households is a drain, but my income and benefits at my new job are invaluable, and I am very pleased to be working in the newspaper industry again. I had to give up my website and my teaching gig at Metropolitan State College of Denver, but the full-time job outweighed the schizophrenic combination of three jobs I held in 2009 (working for Associated Content and Metro State and building ColoradoSoccerNow.com from scratch).


****


John Sopinski

Graphic artist, now graphic artist at Toronto Globe and Mail

Life the same


Like all of my former colleagues at The Rocky, my life has gone through a few changes since I left Denver at the end of April 2009. Luckily, my wife had a good job in Italy so I was able to have a nice place to go with health insurance to boot. It was definitely a plus to be able to get closer to my nieces and nephew and have many new and challenging experiences away from the hustle and bustle of the newsroom; I would have never had that opportunity had The Rocky not closed.

However, at some point real life comes calling and bills must be paid. As there was no gainful employment for me in Italy, I feel very fortunate to have found a great job with Canada's national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, in Toronto after more than 15 months in the Beautiful Country. It's not The Rocky but it is about as close as anyone could come to recreating their old job in Denver. My former Rocky family is never far away as I keep pictures of The Rocky building, the iconic image of The Final Salute and the final A1 cover pinned to my desk in the Globe newsroom. When I sometimes hear the normal everyday grumbling of my new colleagues, I wonder if they realize how fortunate they are to be working for a great organization making good money in the profession that we all love and how quickly that can be taken away if we are not mindful.


****


Dean Krakel

Director of photography, now features/sports photo editor at The Denver Post

Answer to whether life is better or worse too complicated


This is hard to describe. My life has had so many changes since the Rocky closed. I've had a great life, it's been a true adventure both personally and professionally. I've been to one of the most primitive and remote parts of Ethiopia, finished the novel I was writing (now being handled by an agent) and done all kinds of other work, contract editing, writing and photography. I've worked for magazines, worked for wedding photographers as an editor, I've worked for some of our former staff photographers as an assistant, I've developed a business of using large photographs for corporate decoration.


After leaving management I began shooting pictures and writing again. Who knows why I put that on the sidelines. So the quality of my life has been really wonderful, but the financial part has been worrisome. I've decimated my retirement, believing that it's better to invest in myself then save for those golden years. But two years is a long time not to have a steady income. Last winter was really lean. This winter has been better but I've always had the feeling that time & money was like watching sand run through an hour glass. At some point the sand was going to run out and then what? I figured when the money started getting really low that's when I'd book it for the Fiji Islands or pile into my sea kayak and take off for Argentina.....when things get tough that's when the tough take a hike. I've actually been going after some freelance work and getting it. Freelancing is challenging to say the least. Every day you wake up and have got to be a hunter gatherer and it better be a mammoth you gather and not a rabbit. There have been very few days and nights and middle of the nights during the past two years when I have not worried about money. I guess one of the worst things has been not being able to help my boys financially, but then again, they've learned that no one is going to bail them out of a jam.


My story is unusual in that I was actually on the eve of going to bankruptcy court when I was offered a job at the Denver Post. Pretty incredible. In the past two years I divorced, lost my job, lost my house and declared bankruptcy. My landlord was hoping we wouldn't have to have an eviction discussion (because the bankruptcy notice freaked him out) and I was waiting for my car to be repo'd. No shit. Now just how much lower can a person go. Ohhh pretty low. One thing I've learned is that things can always get worse. And they can always get better. We, all of us, walk the razor's edge.


I feel very fortunate and am excited to be working at a newspaper again, working with images and photographers. My time away has given me great perspective and a great appreciation for journalism. I really missed it. When I walked into our old building and interviewed at the Post I felt right at home. Not comfortably so, but in an electric kind of way, like, yeah baby let's roll, lets get after it. There are great stories to be told and great photographs to be taken. It was incredible feeling all that energy, the collective talent of a team working together. I feel refreshed, inspired and ready to go to work.


If that hadn't happened then I would have gone to work on plan B. and C. and D. One thing I've learned is that I'm a survivor.


What I would tell to others is that things work out. Usually. It's all part of the journey.


****


Scott Gilbert

Presentation editor, now reporter at MetroNorth Newspapers

Life about the same


I work much longer hours now, but I feel fortunate that I've been able to stay in journalism. I enjoy having a license to call anyone and ask any question, and it's nice to write stories the way I want. I like being in community journalism, where I know that many of the stories I cover would otherwise go unreported.


****


Phil McPeck

Presentation editor and back-up wire editor, now weekend editor and relief news editor at The Chieftain in Pueblo, Colo.

Life somewhat worse


My job satisfaction is considerably poorer, and it's not simply — to be honest — doing more work for less pay. I've run into significant frustrations in my two post-Rocky positions in terms of commitment to quality, and in fact, the ability or willingness of co-workers to even recognize that something is lacking and remedy it. One thing that was instilled in me at the Rocky was to think reader first and strive to be reader friendly. I find it very strange and disheartening that that is not the norm, whether in writing, headlines or design.


Outside of work, the quality of life and city is poor compared with the Denver metro area and Tulsa, which, contrary to what is public perception, is a fine and vibrant city. I spend my days off in Denver or elsewhere. In six months in Pueblo, I've stayed in town probably two "weekends."


Naturally, the physical distance from Denver has taken a toll on my relationships and friendships. Pueblo is preferable to Tulsa in that regard. I keep in touch with some Rocky peers through Facebook, and have the occasional lunch with a few.


The bottom line is that I'm actively looking for the right combination of a job, compensation and location. I have yet to find it and, literally, I have to stop and remind myself that it may not be fair to compare other newspapers — the product and the staff — to what was.


****


Ellen Jaskol

Photographer, now working freelance

Life somewhat better


I love being my own boss, having my own clients, and being in charge of my own business. I think I might work the same or more hours, but the hours are more flexible, so no one owns my time. I love that. I still have great feelings about the Rocky and the staff's professionalism. So many smart people worked there. The biggest opportunity came to me from the Central Asia Institute, started by Greg Mortenson, who wrote the books, "Three Cups of Tea" and "Stones into Schools." In 2010, they sent me to Afghanistan and Pakistan to photograph their schools and their communities, and I plan to go back in 2011.


****


Kevin Graves

Software developer, now doing the same at Las Vegas Sun

Life about the same


While my physical location has changed my life from a day-to-day perspective hasn't changed much. But working elsewhere just isn't as special as working at the Rocky was. There was something special and unique about that place.


****


Sonya Doctorian

Multimedia journalist/coach, now deputy director of photography at Washington Post

Life the same


I moved from Washington, DC in 2003 to Colorado for a photo editor position at the Rocky. I'll always be grateful I had a chance to work for the Rocky. I carry its mission forward in my daily journalistic work.


I think the burglary of my house on a fine day in September 2010 woke me up to a willingness to look outside Colorado for a staff to join. I was an independent video journalist for nearly two years, so always trusted something good would appear for my next assignment. And it always did. But then 5 burglars stole my $20,000 worth of video camera and computer equipment in 15 minutes. Alas, I learned my Macs were underinsured (what a lame stereotype). Within a month, I sent my portfolio to the Washington Post.


****


Duncan Taylor

Assistant Internet producer, now copy editor/designer at Boulder Daily Camera

Life somewhat worse


I work just as hard and I'm building plenty of skills. I feel I'm growing personally, but perhaps I'm stagnating economically. I'm learning management and editorial skills, but I'm spending my days handcuffed to print. There are pros and cons. But I was excited when I woke up at 4:20 each morning to head to the Rocky, and that's not exactly the case these days.


****


Jeff Smith

Business reporter, now working as a freelance journalist and journalism trainer in Southeast Asia and West Africa

Life somewhat better


We decided the best option would be to move overseas , and wait out the recession. My wife is with a Colorado-based nonprofit (International Development Enterprises) that works with farmers in developing countries. She took the opportunity to help start a project in West Africa. She has become the primary wage earner in our family, while I am the “trailing spouse” who picks up the children from school, cooks, keeps the generator running, and does freelance journalism.

It is has been a challenge living in Ghana and we miss the United States, especially family and friends, the mountains, parks and trails, clean air, and comforts like stable electricity. We don’t miss the consumerism, the political polarization, or popular culture.

These are clichés, but I do think change is good and living overseas broadens one’s world view. I’ve enjoyed learning about development issues in Africa as a journalist and media trainer. And I have the flexibility to do some short-term journalism consulting jobs in Southeast Asia.

The big challenge is whether I can stay in journalism if we decide that I should become the primary wage earner so my wife can spend more time with the children. I would like to stay in journalism but there’s also the reality of supporting two children through college. (currently our daughters are in 2nd and 10th grade – the experience has been mixed for them. Our second grader would rather be in the U.S., while our 10th grader wants to finish high school in Ghana).

****


Aaron Lopez

Sports reporter, now a communications specialist with Nuggets.com

Life about the same


Other than having to work in an office as opposed to out of my home, life hasn't changed a whole lot. I cover games on nights, weekends and holidays, which is the life of a sports writer. My job description requires me to crop photos, take and edit videos, and write captions and headlines, which I never had to do at the Rocky.

Outside of work, my family is still in the same house with similar challenges of managing a budget and keeping a schedule.


****


Armando Arrieta

Night city editor, now working as associate editor in the syndicate and news service division of The New York Times

Life the same


I spent years building a life in Denver, only to have to leave it all and move East to where there were jobs. But I remain in the industry and work as an editor, so it’s hard to complain. Still, if the Rocky had not closed I feel I would still be there.


****


Greg McElvain

Presentation editor, now working as a copy editor/designer at the Salt Lake Tribune

Life is somewhat better


I've broadened my horizons by working for different managers and taking on new duties. Worked in two great cities -- Colorado Springs and Salt Lake. Have made new friends and colleagues.


****


Brian Lehmann

Photo intern, now working as a freelance photographer in Lincoln, Neb.

Life is somewhat worse..


I’ve created the ideal life for a journalist here in Lincoln, Nebraska. I read as much as possible, listen to friends and strangers and when something perks my interest I go searching for the story. I allow myself as much time as necessary to work on them. That could be a few hours, a week or months, then try to publish it in the local newspaper or nationally. My funding comes from the lawn mowing business I started at 13. It isn’t glamorous. I can only afford to shoot what I dig up in my own backyard.

What’s interesting is my images are some of the best I’ve captured, mostly thanks to what I learned at the Rocky, yet I really long for the camaraderie. The late night photo conversations with Mark Holm that changed the way I look at journalism. I miss Janet (Reeves) patrolling the newsroom and catching hints of how she thinks. The fifth floor view of the mountains is a far cry from my current stale view of a cornfield on the plains. Out here I'm on my own, without the buzz of a newsroom, where the daily highs no longer come from impressing an editor or sitting courtside at a Nuggets game. They come from working on stories I’m passionate about, spending all week to get one picture just right or developing a lasting relationship with photo subjects.

My time at the Rocky was an amazing experience I hope to find again someday. It made my transition back to Lincoln difficult. It’s still difficult. In Denver I produced photos for a living and skied in my free time. Now I'm so concerned with not producing that I’m pushing myself harder then ever before. It’s stressful. My goals are set high and time will tell how they work out. One thing is for sure though, I’m addicted to sitting on the sidelines of people’s lives and capturing their story.


****


Kevin Vaughan

Reporter, now doing the same at The Denver Post

Life is the same


I counted myself extremely lucky that The Denver Post offered me a job when the Rocky closed. I remain thankful that I was able to continue my journalism career in Denver, and I work with a lot of great people. I've been fortunate to do work that I've been proud of at the Post. The journalism — the gathering of documents, the tracking down of people, and the writing of stories — is the same thrill every time, and tremendously satisfying. Still, when I think about the closing of the Rocky I am filled with sadness. I miss the people I worked with there. I saw oneof my Rocky friends a couple of weeks ago for the first time since the paper closed — that's astonishing, considering that we worked together in the same newsroom for more than a decade. I could go on and on with stories like that, but that's what I miss — the people.







17 comments:

  1. Thanks for doing this, John. It's really helpful and insightful. I know it's a lot of work, but anything worthwhile is, right?

    ReplyDelete
  2. The Rocky had a copy desk, right? I'd like to know what some of them are up to.

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  3. I was at the Arkansas Gazette when it closed in 1991. We had a rivalry that was every bit as intense as yours with the Post. (In fact, I really want to say it was more intense!) But at that time, there were no blogs or other electronic means of sharing and processing our feelings. In the span of a few weeks, we all scattered and basically lost touch with one another. So I'm glad the Rocky family has this means of staying in touch.

    Looking back from 20 years' distance, I'd say it took me a good five years to really get over the death of the Gazette. So I'm not a bit surprised that people still have very strong feelings about their Rocky experience.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks, Scott. I definitely feel it was worth it.

    Tom, you'll find many copy editors in these stories. They're usually listed as presentation editors.

    John, I'm not sure I'll ever get over the death of the Rocky. It's a loss. But life goes on....

    ReplyDelete
  5. It's nice to see that so many ex-Rockies found meaningful roles and personal growth in the process. Thanks for the report, John.

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  6. When are you going to get tired of paradise and resume journalism back home?

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