Boulder Weekly Staff Hall of Fame

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Sue France

As the company’s founder and publisher, my passion for and commitment to the success of Boulder Weekly has been a double-edged sword that has garnered both praise and criticism from my staff, past and present. On the one hand, my ability to turn up the heat, within myself and my team, would have to be cited as the primary driving force behind our 25 years of success. On the other hand, for some employees — many of which are found in the incredible “staff box” on the facing page — that heat was simply too hot. In short, working for an entrepreneur with an at-times mercurial personality, for whom failure was never an option, has been a definite challenge for those who have worked for the Weekly over the years.

For me, the last 25 years at the Weekly have been an unparalleled opportunity to engage fully in the universal human struggle of becoming the individual I am capable of being. And not unlike any of my fellow human beings, my growth as an individual has been a function of my experiences and how I have met the challenges I have confronted. As the leader, I have had a unique responsibility to address the weightiest problems, make the toughest decisions and accept responsibility for the outcomes. I have done this willingly and even enthusiastically, knowing all the while that I was being continually shaped by both my successes and my failures.

My approach to my job has always been to receive input from those with whom I work and make my decisions accordingly, all the while adapting myself and my job description to the needs of the organization. In that sense, I have seen myself as working for my staff, rather than the other way around. For it has been beholden upon me to become the leader my team wants and needs me to be, the one they respond most favorably to, the one who inspires them to give their best, the one they trust.

How well I have succeeded in that great endeavor is not for me to judge. Rather, it is for those who have worked for me to write my epithet as publisher when I ultimately relinquish my role as the leader of this incredible organization. I know there are plenty — particularly those who were involved in the early, tumultuous years of the organization — who will judge me harshly. To them I say, fair enough, for I know I have made plenty of mistakes.

Along the way, though, I have learned a thing or two about leadership — often the hard way — and those who are on the current team at the Weekly are reaping the benefits of the lessons I have learned from their predecessors. One of those lessons is to generously express gratitude for the talent, dedication and good old-fashioned hard work that my co-workers have exemplified.

To all of the individuals listed on the adjacent page I say: Thank you so much for your contributions to what has become a beloved, essential community institution. No matter what your job, and no matter how long your stay, you were integral to the success of this grand experiment. But there are 10 particularly outstanding members of the 25-year staff whom I want to especially thank, their contributions have been so fundamental to the success of the Weekly.

The 10 members of the Boulder Weekly Hall of Fame are very different from one another, but they exemplify certain traits that are universally admirable: they are skilled, daring, compassionate, patient, dedicated, perfectionistic, enterprising, perseverant, fun-loving and just plain loving. It has been an honor to work with, create with and grow with these fine individuals. I want to thank each one of them for their outstanding contributions, and for teaching me so much over the course of our 25 years.

Leland Rucker

photo by Kim Sidwell

You would have to be insane to leave a great job as the entertainment editor of the well-established Colorado Daily to become the founding editor of the upstart Boulder Weekly — the new publication that was predicted to fail just as fast as the other efforts to establish a weekly in Boulder had come and gone — but that’s exactly what Leland Rucker did back in 1993 when he became the Weekly’s first editor. A well-known fixture in the Boulder community — and someone with perhaps the largest collection of albums and CDs that I had ever seen — Leland gave Boulder Weekly instant credibility during our first, turbulent years. With Leland on board, I was more than just another guy from California who had come to Boulder with a new business venture; I had a “big brother” with me to fend off the bullies in the Boulder business community who seemed to be unified in a chorus of “that’s been tried before and it never works; come back and see me in a year if you’re still in business.”

Like Boulder Weekly Hall of Fame inductee Joel Dyer (and quite a few other Weekly staffers), Leland felt compelled to return to Boulder Weekly after a long absence, and recently fulfilled an encore role when he became a columnist on a subject he and I share a deep fondness for: marijuana. Leland can also be heard on the wavelengths of KGNU, and is currently a senior editor at Sensi Magazine.

     

Joel Dyer

As a founding member of the Boulder Weekly staff, Joel Dyer quickly demonstrated that he was destined for a far greater purpose than his original title of Staff Photographer. Joel’s passion for social justice, acting as a watchdog on government and big business — particularly the oil and gas industry — and his commitment to upholding the highest principles, have been the guiding journalistic force at the Weekly throughout his two tenures as editor. In between his two tours of duty at the Weekly, Joel wrote two books and started and sold his own very successful publication — the Fort Collins Weekly.

Following his resignation from Swift Communications — the company that bought his publication — Joel accepted my invitation to attend the Weekly’s 18th Anniversary Party, and we got to talking about his returning to the Weekly. The deal was sealed when he and I subsequently went for a hike together in the foothills visible from our South Boulder headquarters. Perhaps it was Joel’s desire to get back in the game; possibly it was the strength of our sense of mutual respect and friendship; or perhaps it was the double rainbow that appeared before us as we fantasized about the second coming of Joel to the Weekly, but Joel has done nothing less during the last eight years than turn the Weekly into the most award-winning publication in the Rocky Mountain region. Joel is a journalist in the deepest sense of the word, and a true friend. The gratitude I feel for his journalistic contributions, and the love I feel for him as a friend are inestimable.

        

  Pamela White

Journalists are easily the most principled members on the staff of any publication, and among all of the journalists I have worked with over the years, not one could be described as more principled than Pamela White. When then-editor Wayne Laugesen mentioned to me that Pamela had left her longtime job as an editor at the Colorado Daily, I was anxious to make room for her on the staff at Boulder Weekly. The three of us met for lunch at Hapa Sushi Grill in Downtown Boulder and it was clear instantly that we all spoke the same language.

Timing is everything in the news business, and as fate would have it Pamela’s first assignment was to cover the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks for the Weekly. Clearly, this was no ordinary assignment, and the fact that 9/11 was on a Tuesday meant we had to act quickly to meet the deadline for our Thursday publication. Luckily, Pamela White is a world-class journalist and her skill and dedication were equal to the task. Her award-winning piece, “Why are we so hated,” was a risky approach to a complex issue that engendered plenty of criticism, but proved to be prescient in the way that it got to the heart of the issue of Islamic extremism.

Shortly thereafter, Wayne Laugesen left his post as editor and Pamela succeeded him, and the Weekly was almost instantly transformed into a highly respected, professional media organization. Eventually, her very successful career as a novelist took her away from us, but her lasting influence on the Weekly lives on.

       

Benecia Beyer

One thing I learned very early in my 38-year journey as a publishing entrepreneur: a publication is a business, and no matter how excellent its content, it will fail without staff on board who have the necessary business acumen. I prided myself on the 12 years of publishing success I had in Santa Cruz, California, prior to launching the Weekly in 1993, but there is much more to running the business side of a media company than sales and entrepreneurial skill. There are income statements, quarterly reports, balance sheets, lines of credit, accounts payable and receivable, and a plethora of other accounting needs that a professional media organization simply cannot do without. In short, we needed an accounting professional, a “controller,” to keep our company on solid financial ground.

After an initial period working on behalf of Boulder Weekly for an independent accounting firm, we were fortunate to hire Benecia Beyer as our full-time controller in the spring of 2007. It is no coincidence that the past 12 years have been the most successful in our now-25-year history. Simply put, upon her arrival Benecia transitioned the Weekly from shakey to solid financial ground, and she has spent the ensuing years making sure it stayed that way. From time to time, members of the staff cringe at Benecia’s steadfast insistence that every penny be accurately accounted for, every contract properly executed and every company policy adhered to. But from behind the scenes (there are Weekly staffers who have never met Benecia and wonder if she is a “Wizard of Oz,” pulling the strings behind a curtain) she has single-handedly turned the Weekly into a well-oiled machine with squeaky clean financials and a professional business persona that has made our company a pleasure to work with, and desirable to work for. In that sense she is a wizard, and I will forever be indebted to her.

       

Ross Shell

One of my favorite stories, and one that I have told the sales team at the Weekly many times, is the story of Roger Bannister, the first individual to accomplish the feat of running a mile in less than four minutes. Prior to May 6, 1954, conventional wisdom suggested it was humanly impossible to break the four-minute-mile barrier, but Bannister was having none of that. What is more fascinating than the feat itself, though, is the fact that two months later two more individuals ran the mile in under four minutes. Indeed, during the ensuing 64 years more than 1,400 runners have also done so.

Roger Bannister changed what we believed, and others followed. And during the early, difficult months of the Weekly’s history — as we were struggling mightily to sell enough advertising to cover our expenses — a determined, young, recent Stanford University graduate named Ross Shell joined our sales team and became our Roger Bannister. Ross was the Weekly’s first successful salesperson, and he showed us that, yes, Boulder Weekly could be successfully marketed. Ross set new standards of achievement and laid the groundwork for the success of dozens of other Boulder Weekly sales reps, past and present. Ross has since moved on to a successful career, including founding his own company, Red Idea Partners, in which he does just what he did during his time at the Weekly: help companies develop and implement innovative strategies for growth and success.

       

Allen Carmichael

There was a segment on ESPN recently where a panel of NBA experts was discussing the merits of Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James’ claim that he is the GOAT (Greatest of All Time). A video was shown in which James made that claim, followed by a video of former Chicago Bulls forward Michael Jordan deflecting the title of GOAT, and suggesting that numerous other players — Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, etc. — were also worthy of consideration.

I suspect that the debate will continue unresolved well into the future, but with respect to the title of GOAT among the numerous individuals who have worked in the Boulder Weekly advertising department, the conversation begins and ends with one name: Allen Carmichael. We don’t have sales clubs at the Weekly like they do in real estate offices, such as the “Million Dollar Club.” And this is not the right forum to boast, even on someone else’s behalf. But I will say this: Allen manages more than a half-million dollars of advertising each year, and he has been working for the Weekly since 2004. You do the math.

While media organizations all over the country are downsizing their staffs and offering their readers less, Boulder Weekly has continued to invest in our newsroom and its personnel so that we can continue to offer our community award-winning content that can be trusted and relied upon for quality and accuracy. While our reporters and editors win the awards and receive the credit, none of it would be possible without the efforts of the Weekly’s GOAT, Allen Carmichael.

       

Cal Winn

One thing the alt-weekly industry got right from the very beginning when the first edition of the New York Village Voice hit the streets in 1955: A free society is based upon freedom of the press, and the news should be as free as the press that produces it. Boulder Weekly has followed suit with this principle and has distributed our magazine freely for 25 years.

But have you ever wondered how the Weekly gets to your favorite coffeehouse, grocery store, office building, street corner or any of the other 1,100 distribution points in our circulation system? Meet Cal Winn, the Weekly’s circulation manager.

Cal came to the Weekly in 2007 and completely professionalized our approach to circulation. The objective was to make the magazine available more widely to more Boulder County residents and visitors than ever before, and Cal has worked tirelessly to accomplish that objective. And in his “spare time,” Cal built and maintains an organic vegetable garden on the Southwest corner of our South Boulder property, and helps in countless ways to keep the property secure and running smoothly. “Uncle Cal” is a man of the highest integrity, has an incredible sense of humor, and I love him to death. If you ever see him driving by in the Boulder Weekly truck, wave to him and thank him for making sure you get your copy of the Weekly every Thursday.

       

Mari Nevar

Mari and Stew

Among all of the members of the Boulder Weekly team, Mari Nevar, aka Mrs. Boulder Weekly, has arguably the toughest job. I’m not referring to her role as an account executive; and while her management of the company’s online marketplace, Best of Boulder Deals, has been outstanding, Mari deserves more credit for a title that has never appeared in the staff box: Publisher Tamer.

Mari first arrived on the Boulder Weekly scene at the Fox Theatre as an invited guest at our 5th Anniversary Party. And ever since that fateful first meeting, she has been the sole audience of my nightly recap of the front-car roller-coaster ride I have taken every day as the Weekly’s captain. As such, she has shared with me the ecstasy of the Weekly’s successes and the agonies of our failures. Through it all she has been my primary confidant, advisor and support system.

But the job doesn’t stop there. Mari has been my “cornerman” for more than 20 years, providing a safe place for me to rest and close the wounds from my latest round. And the following morning, she has been there to give me a pep talk and encourage me back into the ring for the battle to come.

Consequently, most of Mari’s contributions to the Weekly have taken place behind the scenes, and she has received little credit for them. But I’m here to tell you that her support of me and numerous other contributions throughout 80 percent of the life of this organization have been no less integral to its success — and at times far more difficult — than those of any member of the staff.

       

Julia Sallo

Among all the staff at the Weekly, past and present, only one has always been there: my daughter, Julia Sallo. Julia was there in 1989, at the age of six months, when a devastating earthquake struck our home in Santa Cruz, California, and led our family to discover there was no weekly publication in Boulder, Colorado. She was there in 1990, at the age of 13 months when we visited Boulder to assess the viability of the Boulder Weekly project. She was there in 1992, at the age of three, when we finally moved to Boulder, and she was there in 1993, at the age of four, when the first edition of the Weekly hit the streets.

Julia spent her childhood at the Weekly’s office after school, where she was found coloring at my desk, doing homework and often falling asleep waiting for me to finish my work on deadline days. And when she reached her teenage years, she wrote a column for the Weekly, called “Next Gen,” that covered the issues high school-aged kids deal with in Boulder.

But the contributions that qualify her for a spot in the Boulder Weekly Hall of Fame were made when she worked at the Weekly concurrently with her undergraduate and post-graduate studies at CU. As a millennial who understood the internet better than anyone on our staff, Julia became the Weekly’s first marketing director. In that position she launched and maintained numerous social media sites, created and ran our Boulder County Events and Best of Boulder Deals online platforms, and initiated awards events in connection with our very popular semi-annual Best of Boulder™ editions, which she transitioned from a paper ballot to an online survey format.

Julia broke my heart five years ago when she left the Weekly to become a high school math teacher. But her immense contributions during her time at the Weekly made a huge difference that continues to define our organization.

       

Susan France

Among all of the traits that employers prize, loyalty will always be at the top of the list. And among all of the Boulder Weekly team members listed in our 25th Anniversary Staff, there is nobody more loyal than Susan France. I like to joke that Sue’s status as a member of the Weekly team for 25 years (her start date was on the Monday of the week of our second edition) proves that I am not impossible to work with. But this minimizes her contributions as an artist, a photographer and as the heart and soul of our company.

Week-in and week-out, over the course of some 1,300 regular editions and countless special editions, it is Sue France’s “signature” as art director that you see when you look through the clean, crisp designs that define the magazines we publish. And much like what goes on behind the scenes in the kitchen of a restaurant that results in an appealing and delicious meal arriving at your table, our readers have no idea how much hard work, dedication and talent goes into creating the magazine you hold in your hands each week.

What Sue has been through over the course of her 25 years at the Weekly is nothing short of miraculous, including two maternity leaves and raising her now college- and high school-aged kids, while holding down a demanding job that often requires her to work long hours. She is an inspiration to all of us who know her, and I suspect she’ll still be a member of our team 25 years from now.