We're just getting started 

A decade ago, when we launched the Independent, my dad toasted our staff with: "Go forth, have fun, do good and make money -- in that order." I am pleased to report that we have done all three.

Today, one of four El Paso County adults reads the Independent. That's more than 95,000 regular readers. Add in the 13,000 who pick up the paper in Teller and Pueblo Counties, and that's a readership of 108,000. WOW!

Our game plan has always been straightforward. Publish interesting, valuable and graphically pleasing local content that readers cannot find anywhere else; provide personal customer service and great ad design to our advertisers; and create a vibrant, empowering and demanding workplace for our employees.

As pleased as we are with our current success, we're not resting on our laurels. A decade hence we plan on having 200,000-plus regular readers. To help reach this goal, starting this week all 50 Pikes Peak region 7-11 stores will begin stocking the Independent. As always, it's possible that a local copier salesman, who like Harry Potter's Lord Voldemort cannot be named, will launch yet another boycott campaign urging 7-11 to ban our paper. The best way we've found to counter his tactics is for readers, whenever they are in a 7-11, to thank the local store manager for carrying the Independent.

In conjunction with our 10th anniversary, this Friday, Aug. 8, we are throwing a huge bash for the public in the park surrounding the Pioneers Museum downtown. Please stop by, and amid the festivities don't forget to drop by the Independent booth and enter a name-that-building contest for our recently acquired new home at 235 S. Nevada Ave., across the street from the Pioneers Museum. Architect Michael Collins will also be giving guided tours of what we're temporarily calling B.O.B. (for Big Old Building). For details, see pages 12 and 13.

In addition, The Independence Community Fund is now inviting nonprofits to apply to be part of its 2003-2004 campaign (see opposite page). During the past two years the ICF has been an all-volunteer effort, but we've now grown enough to warrant a part-time staff person. For details see next week's paper.

My sincere thanks go to Independent art director Kathy Conarro for designing our 10th anniversary marketing and promotional materials, as well as working tirelessly with the architects on our new building. Publisher's manager Sherri VanEngelen has been a rock star helping to plan our upcoming bash.

* * *

Behind every successful man, they say, is a woman. For me, it is a slew of Independent women and a few wonderful men who've been with me since the beginning.

First and foremost is the talented and grounded Kathryn Carpenter Eastburn, who helped found the paper a decade ago, was the paper's longtime editor and is now a contributing editor, writer and columnist extraordinaire.

Teri Homick, our founding sales manager, has overseen the generation of $10 million in display ad revenue over the past decade. Her energy, talents, persistence and good cheer have enabled the Independent to succeed. Without Teri, no Independent -- plain and simple.

Cara DeGette, our editor of two years, has been the backbone of our news gathering operation since day one. In person, she is sweet and nice. But watch out when our Cara gets her teeth into a story. She reports the news without fear or favor. A decade ago I almost didn't hire her. That would have been a whopper of a mistake on par with George Bush's decision, as Texas Ranger Baseball GM, to trade Sammy Sosa!

Back in 1993, my friend and ally activist Annie Oatman-Gardner let me stay on her family's sofa for seven months while I explored launching the Independent. Annie not only developed our initial distribution system a decade back, but also worked with me to launch the TOPS campaigns in 1995 and 1997. Today Annie is still my best and most challenging pal.

Richard Skorman -- now vice mayor -- gave us office space, wisdom and endless pizzas during our exploratory period in 1993, served as our associate editor during 1994, and opened his heart and connections to help us get off the ground. Without Richard's kindness back then, there would be no Independent today.

Greg Walta, our first investor in 1993 and my former teacher at Colorado College, has been a trusted confidant over the past decade. His quiet counsel and hardy laugh have helped the paper overcome numerous threats.

And last, but not least, is Dad -- who's not only always been in my corner, but whose sage advice and insights I cherish.

See you at our Birthday Bash!

My favorite cover story

In late March 1999, our scheduled cover story needed more reporting, so we had two days to come up with something new. We decided to announce that the Internal Revenue Service was shutting The Independent down because we had not paid taxes for five years. On page 3, I penned a long letter outlining how we meant to pay the IRS back. The next page read: APRIL FOOLS.

Literally hundreds of people did not get beyond page 3. We were inundated with heartfelt condolence calls and letters. I felt as if I were at my own funeral. I was a creep for causing so much sorrow among our supporters, but it also brought home the importance of our work. It also gave me a huge belly laugh when a used furniture guy came by with a wad of dead presidents, offering to buy our computers, desks and chairs -- no questions asked -- before the IRS padlocked our door shut.


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