I’ve spent the majority of my past two decades living Thursday to Thursday.
Working at weekly newspapers that came out that day, it just became second nature to think of dates like that.
If I knew the 7th was our next issue, then when someone said we should meet on the 9th, I could easily calculate that as the following Saturday.
And Wednesdays have always been stressful. That’s been my production day, deadline day, the day when every story had to be written, copyedited and laid out; the day when every photo had to be placed and properly captioned and credited; the day when every headline had to be double-checked and every page had to be submitted to the printer, whether it was hand-delivered on large paper sheets, like it was when I started, or uploaded as a PDF file to a server, as it is today.
That Wednesday crunch has been the same for me since the mid-1990s, with the exception of one year at a daily newspaper, where I actually had to turn around a couple of stories every 24 hours.
After tasting that daily environment, I realized that I preferred the pace of the weekly newspaper, where you actually have the time to do a thorough, in-depth job on an article, where you have the luxury of interviewing most, if not all, of the sources you need to give a story justice, where you don’t have to cut corners and settle for whatever sources call you back in the remaining 18 minutes before your daily deadline.
And now I’m leaving that weekly pace, and journalism in general. After nearly two years at the weekly Clear Creek Courant, a year at the Summit Daily News, 12 years at the CU faculty/staff newspaper Silver & Gold Record and four and half years at Boulder Weekly, I’m taking a job as communications coordinator for Colorado State University.
And for someone who’s been a reporter and editor for nearly 20 years, that’s a big transition. Some of my journalist colleagues call public relations the “Dark Side.” I’ve been conditioned to consider PR folks as potential adversaries, especially when pursuing a story that might cast their organizations in a negative light.
And yet, I’ve worked with many PR professionals who have actually been helpful and honest, people who have pointed me to the right interviews, who have been upfront about problems, whose immediate reaction hasn’t been a defensive, circle-the-wagons stance when faced with controversy.
I plan to be one of those. After all, I have a deep appreciation for the value of a free press, for the value that the fourth estate contributes to the health of a democracy, in which the open exchange of ideas usually means that the best concepts rise to the top, in which transparency is the best medicine for fending off corruption, conflicts of interest and greed.
I’m proud of the job that Boulder Weekly and the other publications I’ve worked for have done in shining light on the often obscured edges of society, in giving a voice to the voiceless, in challenging the powers that be — and holding them accountable. When the University of Colorado shut down the Silver & Gold Record in 2009, I knew it wasn’t just about budget cuts, it was about silencing an independent voice that wasn’t always popular or towing the company line, and that is a troubling, recurring pattern of “controlling the message” that has reared its ugly head repeatedly at CU, from attacks on the journalism school and the Campus Press to controversial professors like Patti Adler and Ward Churchill.
When former BW editor Pamela White and BW publisher and founder Stewart Sallo gave me a new lease on journalistic life in 2009, after the Silver & Gold staff had been laid off, it renewed my faith in independent, local, aggressive journalism. We took on stories that I’d never been able to tackle when my salary was funded by the CU president’s office. Among other accomplishments, we changed a state law that had permitted female inmates to be shackled to the bed while they gave birth. And when Joel Dyer took over as editor after Pamela’s departure, we exposed the forces behind the push for GMO crops on county open space; we wrote a 10-part series that won a national award for documenting the environmentally sordid history of the city of Boulder’s Valmont Butte property; and we unearthed what was hidden under the contaminated site of the Dushanbe Teahouse, and what missteps the city made in building it there.
I may never again be in an environment where I can bring about so much change, and that has been rewarding beyond words, from telling the stories of the homeless to making those in power very uncomfortable by exposing that which they have concealed.
I owe so much to my current and former colleagues in this field, who have not only taught me about the proper use of the comma, but about being ethical and responsible about how we tell people’s stories.
It’s going to be a big adjustment for me to go into public relations, but in this digital environment, in the age of the Internet and Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, it’s still about telling those stories, and being one’s own media outlet, no matter what the medium.
I’m glad I’ll be able to keep interviewing interesting people and telling their stories. And I’ll try to keep doing it accurately and fairly.
I just hope the stress that I automatically feel every Wednesday fades with time.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.