Signs go up, signs come down. Companies sell or move, and people move on. Such is life throughout the business world.
But it’s different when we’re talking about a daily newspaper.
It’s hard to explain, but newspapers have dual roles. They need to make a profit, obviously. But to endure, they also must have a relationship with their audience — and those readers aren’t typical customers. If a paper is on its game, the readers feel like co-owners, empowered to praise or (especially) criticize stories, writers, headlines, anything.
For those on the inside, producing that paper every day of every year, the result is a unity that’s unlike other professions. When today’s edition breaks news and creates conversations in the community, everyone shares in the satisfaction. When extraordinary stories happen — no matter how uplifting or tragic — the staff pulls together to present them as skillfully and thoroughly as possible.
And when you do that literally thousands of times, you forge bonds that never fade.
If you have read The Gazette for years, perhaps you understand. That paper, inside its functional old building at 30 S. Prospect St., was the center of my professional life for 24 years — 1977 to 2001. I spent that entire time forging deep ties with the audience, which happens when you put your opinion and face out there four, five, even six times a week for nearly a quarter-century.
When I left to pursue different horizons, many readers never forgot. I returned to town seven years ago next week, and strangers still would say hi and remember something about the Broncos, a great high school game or just brief encounters from long ago. That still happens today.
So there was no hesitation when I learned about an event planned for Monday night, with former Gazette employees invited to a last farewell before the paper’s move downtown. Sure, I’m on the other side of the fence now. But that doesn’t erase 24 years, and it doesn’t take away that closeness to former cohorts, still working there or not.
I went to that gathering and saw people for the first time in years. We told old stories, talked about how the newspaper business has changed, but how journalism at its core lives on.
We heard former reporter Dave Curtin (now living in Boulder) talk once again about his unforgettable story, “Adam and Megan,” that won a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 1990. But Curtin spent just as much time reliving the horrific Sunday in 1991 that began with a United Airlines plane crash in Widefield, killing its 20 passengers (many local residents) and five crew, and ended that night with a local nursing home fire that claimed 10 lives.
He recalled those details and we all shuddered once again, even those who worked outside the newsroom. And we related to the current staff covering those fires and floods of the past two summers.
We enjoyed more old tales from Barb Reichert, who became the paper’s first and only female sports editor before leaving for Chicago in 1998 — she’s back now, working for U.S. Figure Skating. And we relished the reflections of Jennifer Butcher, the superb human resources director for 25 years (1986-2011), as well as 47-year veteran Linda Navarro, still writing for The Gazette today.
The stories could have continued all night, but that wasn’t necessary. Everyone enjoyed the nostalgia, and current Publisher Dan Steever — here just 14 months — marveled at how so many people nodded knowingly when others brought up even obscure anecdotes.
If this little soiree had happened a few years ago, it wouldn’t have been so pleasant, after The Gazette deteriorated so visibly during the last decade before its longtime parent company, Freedom Communications, finally sold to new owners. Then, late last year, Clarity Media Group (a Philip Anschutz company) swooped in, bought the paper, poured resources back into it and stopped the hemorrhaging.
But Clarity didn’t buy that old building, and the aged presses were on their last legs. The paper now is printed by the Denver Post, and Clarity moved the remaining operations late this week to 30 E. Pikes Peak Ave., with The Gazette’s nameplate already on its new location in advance.
Thankfully, the ownership saw fit to invite the “alumni association” to share the moment and smell those presses one last time. Some had to swallow resentment, because they were among the victims laid off or forced out. But many came because we share the history of having been part of this city’s dominant paper.
We share something else: still wanting The Gazette to succeed, even if we disagree with some of its new agenda, because any healthy city and its business community need a daily newspaper to love, hate, curse and enjoy.
No matter where the building is.