Indy stays on course amid leadership changes

From a distance, short in literal terms but far away otherwise, my experience with the Colorado Springs Independent began with this paper's inception in September 1993. Along with the rest of the staff then working at the daily Gazette-Telegraph (the Telegraph went away in 1997), we first regarded the Independent as a small nuisance, not even a pest, more like a fly on the other side of the room.

As time passed, that darn fly became more bothersome as the Indy shaped its personality, creating conversations around the city and having an impact with its stories and columns. Instead of ignoring it, those of us at the daily paper began making sure to see and read the Indy. Granted, we refused to give the alt-weekly much respect, but we did make sure to check out what Kathryn Eastburn and Cara DeGette were up to each week.

Longtime regular readers have their own versions of the Indy's evolution — how it provided a refreshing, irreverent voice of tolerance, moderation and progressive ideas to counter the dominant "other" views across the community. Investigative projects, probing political pieces and the constant backbone of strong entertainment coverage provided a healthy regular diet to the Indy's loyal audience. And though this weekly had (then and now) just a fraction of the resources, it stood up to the Gazette and other media on a consistent basis.

Almost exactly a decade ago, publisher John Weiss presented me the opportunity to leave the daily world and lead the Indy forward through changing times. Many priorities remained constant, though my strategy included more straight news involving area governments, other issues and, of course, politics. Emphasizing those areas often led us to bigger stories, and our staff took pride in developing solid professional relationships with many local leaders.

[pullquote-1] Sure, a lot of Colorado Springs residents didn't (and still don't) agree with the Indy very often, some not at all. But we never were trying to win any popularity contests. We've been proud of our news journalism over this past decade, and just as proud to give readers the best food, music and other arts/entertainment coverage in this market, period.

My role took a different path in 2012 when our parent company, the Colorado Publishing House, purchased the Colorado Springs Business Journal. That meant stepping away from actively overseeing the Independent to become the CSBJ's executive editor. We were determined, and committed, to keep those news operations separate, with neither side influencing the other whatsoever. On a personal level, I returned to being more a spectator and reader of the Indy, hearing some business people voice their frustration and even disdain for the "alternative."

The reality, though, is the Independent's place in the region has never been stronger, with unbiased market research showing more people aged 18-54 as regular readers of the Indy than the daily. That's because the Indy's journalistic foundation remained strong, and the same principles endured thanks to having such a superb, stable staff of proven professionals led by Pam Zubeck and J. AdrianStanley in news along with Matthew Schniper and Bill Forman in food, music and A&E.

This past spring, a new challenge surfaced — once again taking charge of the Indy's editorial side until a new editor could be hired to fill the vacancy. And the months since have been as rewarding as ever as we've simply pushed the same priorities, trying to offer as much variety as ever with recent cover stories ranging from Nori Rost and Darryl Glenn to such topics as tiny houses, homeless problems and same-sex marriage.

My only goal has been to make sure the ship was pointed in the right direction.

And now, in this issue, we're announcing the promotion of Matthew Schniper to become the Indy's new editor. The fact that we're elevating someone from within feels most gratifying, as my role returns to being more in the background. Matthew brings much to the table, from knowing many civic leaders to being involved with the A&E scene and many nonprofits. Add to that the fact he was recently chosen for Leadership Pikes Peak's next signature class, and you have a 30-something editor fully grounded in the community with new ideas and ambitions for the Indy.

Life goes on, but 23 years later, the Independent isn't a pesky fly anymore. It's an integral part of Colorado Springs, and that's not changing.