Tonn: New challenge means leaving CSBJ again

Filed under: Print |

Death and taxes don’t solely control the market anymore — these days, change has become likewise inevitable, as well as the need to adapt. Much to my surprise, my recent tenure at the Business Journal has ended, as a new opportunity presented itself.

If I’ve learned anything in business and life, it would be that things happen for a reason, so one must seize opportunity before it saunters or sprints away. Given that, I’ve accepted the Director of Public Relations position at Blakely + Company, an advertising/marketing agency in the heart of downtown Colorado Springs.

Not that the Business Journal will ever be far from my thoughts. On the contrary, I owe nearly everything I’ve learned about business and the vibrant local corporate, nonprofit and entrepreneurial community to the CSBJ.

After spending 10 years as daytime bartender and manager at one of downtown’s landmark restaurants, while raising my kids and attending UCCS, I graduated with a bachelor’s in English at the end of 2005. Nervous and excited, I started as a writer on post at the Fort Carson Mountaineer newspaper (printed by Colorado Publishing Company/Business Journal) in the summer of 2006.

I’d moved to Colorado Springs from California in 1986 with little knowledge of the military. For the next 14 months on the Mountain Post, I had the privilege of meeting, interviewing, photographing and learning more about the families, soldiers and officers who make sacrifices each day to serve our country. I loved my job, especially knowing morale-boosting stories helped military personnel and their families.

Then one day, CSBJ executives said they needed me to fill a position at the Business Journal, so I transferred downtown.

Imagine my surprise: They needed a banking and finance reporter. The English major in me was intimidated, but then-editor Mike Boyd (who moved to Tacoma, Wash., in late 2009) told me, “You’ll learn it.”

And I did. Not being a business major, I studied financial topics until I could put them in plain English for laypeople.

When people in the community told me they understood my articles, which helped them make better business decisions, I loved my job, again. I was helping people, so that made all the difference. I reported on small businesses, entrepreneurs, corporate fraud, biometrics and more, later adding tourism and nonprofits to my beat.

Along the way, I met engineers, professors, scientists, bankers, CEOs, attorneys, financial advisers and small-business owners all across the city. Their enthusiasm, knowledge and courage astounded me.

Then in April 2011, I had the opportunity to branch out as a contractor to do editing, marketing, social media, etc., so I left CSBJ. But after a series of wholly unexpected career and life twists and turns (remember my change-is-inevitable mantra), I found myself returning to the Business Journal as associate editor in October. And it was thrilling — another opportunity to be seized.

Since my 2011 departure, the Business Journal had changed hands from a corporate conglomerate to local ownership, which made a huge difference. The new organization is more responsive, with skin in the game, as the sports adage goes. The owner, CEO and executives all live in this community — they personally care about the city and want to make it a better place to live and work and start businesses.

Executive Editor Ralph Routon — an icon of journalism for decades in the community — whom I’d only known casually before, has been a joy to work with. His grasp of political issues and the business environment remains impressive. Each week, I’m amazed at his columns and editorials, as they reveal his foresight about where we, collectively, as a business community, are headed — and also where we ought to be going to ensure future growth and stability.

Not only that, but he’s been involved for years in supporting and working with local nonprofits — a genuinely good man who cares about people.

As everything is a learning experience, regret becomes a waste of energy. So, I won’t regret leaving, but I certainly will miss my CSBJ colleagues.

John Hazlehurst covers local politics with dexterity, humor, insight and brilliance, while managing to go for 30-mile bike rides during lunch. Hazlehurst retains a wealth of knowledge about the city and its history — invaluable information for others in the newsroom.

Marija (Mary) Vader cranks out stories at an impossible rate, while managing to lob odd one-liners and bits of dry wit, becoming known on the editorial team for tracking down unique businesses to feature, fueled by several cups of coffee and a jug of iced tea, in that order.

Cameron Moix handles the Young Professionals features and reports on everything from technology, aviation and real estate to military and education, while taking a camera everywhere, capturing cool and unusual photos with his artistic eye. A YP himself, Moix brings a fresh perspective to the newsroom.

Researcher Dave Bitz patiently calls and emails and follows up with myriad CEOs, executive directors and small-business owners to compile The List each week, better known as the Book of Lists when it’s published annually. Those lists of businesses and nonprofits remain important for business owners as they seek to expand and market their companies. It’s not an easy job, but Bitz does it well.

New to the team, graphic designer Ryan Hannigan maintains a laid-back demeanor, with a tinge of sarcasm, keeping things light on production day, when occasional computer crashes or technological glitches make putting the paper to bed on Wednesday extra challenging.

Production Manager Mike Reid, whom I’ve had the privilege of working with for years, troubleshoots information technology issues while designing and overseeing the military newspapers and special sections. Reid juggles a variety of publications, all with a sharp eye for design and detail, not to mention his special brand of sarcasm, aimed at me — which (don’t tell him) always makes me laugh and smile.

As I’m only moving down the street, there will be no goodbyes. I’ll still have lunch with my former colleagues, and I’ll still see most of you out and about in the business community, at networking events, community meetings, even on hiking trails.

Of course, I’ll remain a staunch supporter of the Business Journal and its efforts to report on, build and strengthen the business community in El Paso County.

As such, I will always be grateful for the opportunity to work for CSBJ. Thank you, Ralph Routon, for your wisdom, leadership and believing in me.

And thank you to all of the business community — I’ve learned so much from and retain a deep respect for the people I’ve interviewed and the companies and nonprofits I’ve been privileged to write about. See you soon!