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click to enlarge From his brash late 30s to the big 6-0, John Weiss has matured along with his newspaper. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • From his brash late 30s to the big 6-0, John Weiss has matured along with his newspaper.

The sun will rise on Friday morning, as always. Throughout the Pikes Peak region, thousands of people will go about their normal lives, heading into the weekend.

Just a normal day in our city — except that it won't be for everyone with any connection, past or present, to the Colorado Springs Independent.

For the first time in its 22-year history, that day will begin without John Weiss as publisher of this newspaper.

As we announced earlier, Weiss has decided to step aside from day-to-day involvement with the alternative newsweekly that he co-founded in September 1993. He made his plans known ahead of time to allow for a smooth transition, with Carrie Simison taking over as publisher.

If all goes according to plan, it shouldn't feel different to even the most seasoned and avid readers of the Indy. After all, John hasn't been closely overseeing the actual content and production of the paper for some time, focusing more and more on the "macro" (one of his terms) and on his many community involvements, topped by the annual Give! campaign.

But though nothing may change from an outside view, rest assured that's not how it feels this week inside our stately building at 235 S. Nevada Ave.

We're dealing with a sudden vacuum ... because, in a very real sense, an era is ending. And we can't let that happen without taking note and admitting the strange mix of emotions surrounding our company right now.

"His passions for this community — and what this newspaper can help accomplish in this community — run SO strong, there's nothing he wouldn't do to make a positive impact on a person, a nonprofit, a policy and most certainly this city," Simison says as she takes over the publisher role.

"He can be hard to follow because he's got one of those minds that just won't quiet down, but when he latches onto that moment-changing idea and gets buy-in from his friends — and that's what we are here at the Indy — to implement it, greatness happens."

But that's all changing now. My task here is to put this moment in perspective and to give a community icon the tribute he deserves.

click to enlarge From his brash late 30s to the big 6-0, John Weiss has matured along with his newspaper. - COURTESY GEORGE MIGASH
  • Courtesy George Migash
  • From his brash late 30s to the big 6-0, John Weiss has matured along with his newspaper.

Back in the early 1990s, John Weiss wanted to make Colorado Springs a better place. He didn't like how the community was evolving, with a growing intolerance and lacking a voice for causes that mattered to him.

That led to the birth of the Independent, a fresh and different presence on the local media scene and a vehicle for galvanizing a segment of the local population.

As the paper found its journalistic legs, John found ways to utilize its slowly growing influence and, at the same time, target ways to impact the area. He became more and more prominent as a local activist, supporting campaigns for trails and open space as well as organizations like Citizens Project.

With those endeavors, and with the Independent, John became an amazing fount of endless ideas. As he grew to realize, not all of those ideas were brilliant, but many of them were (and still are). It was up to others — whether working on the newspaper, ballot issues, fundraisers or whatever — to pick out the gems and run with them.

He was as fearless and bold as he was unpredictable. He embraced many strategic mantras, such as "it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission." And he never hesitated to bring up any question, no matter how disarming, because in his view it was far better to be told "no" than not to ask.

That's how we met for the first time. It was in the late 1990s, and I had been writing columns and building a community presence at the Gazette for more than two decades. He called and asked to meet with me, which we did at a spot in Manitou Springs. He asked if I would consider moving over to the Independent, and he didn't flinch when I told him how much of a commitment it would take.

It didn't work out that time. But later, in 2006 when I was living in Florida but yearning to return, a visit to the Indy coincided with the paper suddenly needing a new editor. That's when I learned another side of John Weiss. Our process of "negotiations" lasted from June to the night before Thanksgiving. He drove a harder bargain than anyone I'd ever known, but finally we closed the deal.

Over the past nearly nine years, I've worked for the Indy, then the Colorado Springs Business Journal when he bought that paper in 2012, adding the Pikes Peak Bulletin in Manitou when that came along in 2014, and now I'm assuming one of John's latest "macro" ideas as executive editor for all of them.

Through the years, we've talked and argued, cooperated and battled, agreed and disagreed, celebrated and suffered — as it should be between a publisher and editor. That's another of John's strengths, accompanied by another mantra: that the Indy editor reports first to the readers, not the publisher. It has always been OK to push back, but you also have to be willing to justify your position, even repeatedly.

For 22 years, John Weiss has been impacting Colorado Springs and the entire region. Many people like and respect him; many others don't, and that's fine with him. No setback lasts long for John. He just moves on to the next hurdle, the next challenge, the next dream.

But for John, the horizon always has stretched far beyond the shadow of Pikes Peak. And now, with his two sons continuing their schooling elsewhere, with his personal bucket list still lengthy, and with his 60th birthday (this week, not coincidentally) slapping him in the face, he wants to do more.

So he's starting to let go, beginning with the Indy. He remains the majority owner and will assume the title of chairman of the board, but as his succession plan becomes reality, he's even cleaning out his office at 235 S. Nevada. He'll still be around, working with Give!, helping to organize forums and town halls, but at any given time he also might leave for a few months to volunteer in Uganda, Central America, Europe or wherever any new adventures take him.

As for the Independent, it's obvious that stepping away is difficult for him. This is his baby, his prized possession, his most noble accomplishment. But he's been reminding himself that it's more important now to ensure the paper outlasts him and continues to make a difference, even without his constant guidance.

"Even though John is stepping back as publisher, I know I have access to that great mind and the ideas that it churns out at a million miles a minute," Simison says. "Going forward, you should see his vision and our new vision meld as we continue to create positive change during this next phase at the Indy."

Life goes on. Someone else will be publisher now. In my case, someone else is editor. Eventually, someone else might own the Indy.

But nothing will ever diminish the effect and the influence John Weiss has had on this newspaper and the Pikes Peak region.

For that, John, today we stand and applaud you. And we'll make sure that your values are never forgotten.

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