Donna Ladd, Kathryn Eastburn, Cate Terwilliger, Tom Vasich, Cara DeGette, Ralph Routon, Kirk Woundy and Vanessa Martinez.
That's our history — the chronological list of the talented, dedicated editors who have led the Colorado Springs Independent from a scruffy start-up more than two decades ago to the award-winning alternative newsweekly it is today.
When I came to work here 18 years ago, Vasich was the editor. But as happens in an organization where employees are more than worker bees, when they are invested in the mission of the company, even when their life circumstances change, Ladd, Eastburn and Terwilliger were all back in some role during my tenure.
That said, I have been lucky enough to work with each of the eight journalists who have shaped what the Independent has brought to the Pikes Peak region since 1993. And now, I'm thrilled to announce the ninth.
Matthew Schniper started freelancing for the Indy in 2004, discovered waiting tables at Sencha by then-Editor Kathryn Eastburn. By 2006 he was a full-time staffer at our Listings desk. In years since, you may know him primarily for his thoughtful, truthful, delectable and beautiful food coverage, but Matthew's experience and expertise range far beyond that.
For years he's functioned as our unofficial special sections editor, taking point on organizing guides, annuals and supplements.
Matthew's also an experiential writer. Some of his most memorable pieces include stories like the eco-driven "Dirt is the new black" where he reported on, then actually co-constructed an Earthship-inspired, cob wall greenhouse at his home.
He also traveled to India in late 2013 with the local nonprofit Yobel Market and immersed himself for two weeks (contracting giardia in the process) to tell the story behind those "fair trade" labels by giving us a first-hand account via the multimedia story "Trading Places" and concurrent photo exhibition at SPQR.
Additionally, he traveled to Los Angeles in early 2015 to track Colorado Springs' own Charles Babinski, fresh off a first-place finish at the U.S. Barista Championship, and examine the explosion of third-wave coffee culture in our village. And earlier this year, after a personal trip to Cuba, he chronicled local Lucy I'm Home food truck owner Hector Diaz's childhood refugee story, via the historic Operation Peter Pan.
There is never a prouder moment than when you get to take talent your company has fostered, passion that someone has dedicated and promote from within. I couldn't be more excited to work alongside Matthew Schniper as the next editor of the Colorado Springs Independent.
— Carrie Simison, Publisher
I was one of those kids who never knew what he wanted to be when he grew up. So in one regard, I consider it as much an accident as a gift to be stepping in as the Indy's next editor. In another regard, destiny intervened.
My middle name is Cassidy, "like Butch Cassidy," I'd often say, trying to sound tough. But actually, I'm named after my mother's father, Eugene Cassidy Thompson. "Pappy," as his peers called him, launched a career as a newspaper man in 1929 in the TriCities area of northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia, at the still-vibrant Bristol Herald Courier. Though he began as a news reporter, by 1940 he rose to sports editor, serving until 1979. Those decades at the typewriter earned him a prestigious vote for annual Heisman Trophy winners, and he was later inducted into Tennessee and Virginia's sports halls of fame. Almost 40 years later, the Gene "Pappy" Thompson Award still goes annually to a local high school senior with "outstanding achievement in athletics, academics and community service."
You could say that's a lot to live up to, had I actually been pressured to become a journalist. But I wasn't.
I grew up in Alabama, the son of a Holocaust survivor — my dad was born in a forced labor camp during the war. As such, my older brothers and I were well schooled in Jewish culture and history, but also on Civil Rights topics, Birmingham being a prominent battleground for the movement in the early '60s. My father actually skipped school and witnessed the day when police deployed German shepherds and fire hoses on black citizens, just one horrific incident that drew international attention.
In high school, I joined a black-Jewish teen dialogue panel, organized in part to discuss how to be allies for one another as minority groups in the community. But being white and male, I never saw myself as a minority, arriving at Colorado College in 1997 to confound my classmates, who didn't know there were such things as Jews in Alabama. And that those Jews could be vegan, at that. Minds blown.
Well, all that changed, as I later became the food editor and one of the critics for the Indy, eating everything under the hot-lamp — even pork. I'm now as reformed as Hebrew Hillbillies get, and after 20 years, I feel like Colorado's my home.
A few years after graduating from CC with a creative writing and film degree, I was still using restaurant work to bankroll intermittent world travel, when I waited on Indy editor Kathryn Eastburn one day. I mentioned I'd written for The Catalyst on campus and accidentally ended up with an assignment for the next week's paper. It was on a tap dancing theater performance, and it and subsequent freelance work eventually earned me a spot in-house a couple years later, in early 2006. In the following years I also had the pleasure of co-organizing the Indy's A&E reporting, which equated to everything from diving into all aspects of our local arts scene to interviewing the likes of musician Rosanne Cash, Earth Day co-founder Denis Hayes, author Chuck Palahniuk, and even porn star Ron Jeremy. (How's that for alt journalism?)
So, here I am, and like my grandfather before me, I embark on a whole new, exciting challenge a decade into my newspaper career. No promises on matching his 40 years more — like I said, this was all destined as a happy accident — but there's nowhere I'd rather be for the foreseeable future than in this community, celebrating our accomplishments, championing our reforms, and challenging our holy institutions, with the support of a terrific team of journalists and the wider Indy staff. Cheers to outstanding achievements ahead.
— Matthew Schniper
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