My father worked as the editor of a New England newspaper for more than 40 years. He often complained about the long hours, short pay and especially the late-night phone calls from frantic, grammatically-challenged young reporters who hardly knew the difference between a noun and an adject ... adjuctiv ... adjuck ... uh, verb.
Recently, at the end of his long run in the newsroom, my father told me he'd wished he'd become the publisher of the newspaper. Having had some personal experience in the past couple of years with a newspaper publisher, I had the obvious question: Why the hell would my father want to be a humorless, angry old dwarf with no recognizable talent and an entire building filled with employees who dreamed of cutting the brake lines in his sports utility vehicle?
And yet -- and here I arrive at what writers call the "point" -- today I find myself in a position I never dreamed I'd see. Today I assume the job of publisher of the Colorado Springs Independent, which is, among its other fine attributes, printed with something called "soy ink." Which says a lot about this newspaper's commitment to the environment, and also explains why all the reporters' lips were stained black after someone brought egg rolls to last week's staff meeting.
Some background. I arrive at this job as a newspaper publisher after 27 years as a reporter and writer. Eight were spent as a sports writer for United Press International in Los Angeles, followed by nine years as a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times. Most recently I spent ten years as the metro columnist for the Colorado Springs Gazelle (new motto: "More Readers Mean More Delivery Costs. No, Thanks.")
That ended a few months ago so the paper could give more space to its real columnist, Ed Bircham, and its equally terrific editorial writer, who is his own man. Except for his testicles, which were purchased two years ago by the The Broadmoor.
Anyway, today I formally take over the Independent from longtime publisher John Weiss, who is leaving to test the political waters. Weiss will make his own announcement about these plans, but some believe he is eyeing Tom Huffman's soon-to-be vacated seat as El Paso County Commissioner. (One hint: the huge stack of "I Won't Conduct Personal Vendettas And Leave Your Dead Relatives In The County Morgue For A Week" signs in Weiss's office.)
My first order of business as publisher of the Independent will be to find a new editor and managing editor. Using my recent experience at the Gazelle as a guide, I will begin my search at Toys 'R' Us. In the puppet aisle.
Actually, the entire staff will stay on, including editor Cara DeGette. I made this decision based on Cara's keen journalistic eye and mostly because she's the only one with a key to the bathroom in our terrific new office at 235 S. Nevada Ave. The old brick structure, refurbished for the Indy, was most recently the home of the Smokebrush Theater, its hallways now echoing with the soul and the spirit of actors. (In my new job, I plan to placate the building's karma by acting like I care.)
I will bring new ideas to the publisher's office. For example, I'd like to bring a new columnist on board. I was thinking of asking City Councilwoman Margaret Radford to write a weekly aerobics/health column. In the wake of her giddiness over her role in the recent water deal with Pueblo, she's whipped herself into great shape by spending eight hours a day vigorously patting herself on the back.
Anyway, today, a new era begins.
And as a final note, under my direction the Indy will no longer engage in name-calling or other juvenile behavior. Take, just for an example, an actual quote by highly esteemed County Commissioner Huffman, who used the demise of my column in the Gazelle a few months ago as an opportunity to refer to me, in this newspaper, as "a prick."
Starting today, the Indy will no longer respond to such comments.
Although frankly, if I looked like Huffman -- with that big, shiny, hairless head -- I'd probably be a little more careful before I called anyone else a prick.