Routon’s retirement leaves big shoes to fill

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Next Thursday, the Colorado Springs Business Journal will come back from the printer ready to be mailed and distributed — just like always. And the editorial, advertising and production staffs will be preparing for the Oct. 6 edition — just like always. We’ll interview sources, talk to clients, plan the paper’s upcoming events.

But it won’t be the same.

For the first time in five years, we’ll be doing it without Executive Editor Ralph Routon, who was always available for advice and assistance, even when he was on vacation. That’s just the kind of editor and mentor Ralph is.

Ralph is retiring Sept. 27, and although we’re hoping he’ll still be available in 2018, he has plans to travel and decompress from decades of meeting deadlines, editing copy, filling in for people on vacation, mentoring staff and providing guidance.

He’ll be missed — and by few more than me.

I met Ralph in 2012, although I knew his name and reputation for years before that. You can’t live in Colorado Springs and not know who Ralph Routon is. But that was the year when John Weiss bought the Business Journal from a faltering Dolan Media Group, and the editorial staff was nervous about what that would mean. Would we change our editorial direction? Would we start taking marijuana advertising? Would we all still have jobs? What was this new editor (our third since 2010) going to be like?

We shouldn’t have worried. Within days, Ralph managed to calm everyone’s fears. Within weeks, he proved to be one of the best editors I’ve ever had. He was dedicated; he worked long hours; he provided feedback, but did it in a way that you hardly knew you were being criticized; he provided new sources, new ideas and new ways to approach our beats.

And his leadership showed — for the first time in its history, with Ralph at the helm, the CSBJ won a Best in Class award from the Colorado Press Association in 2013.

Over the years, Ralph has become a mentor and a friend. His generosity knows no bounds and his critiques always make reporters better at their jobs. He has a knack for teaching in a way that doesn’t make people defensive — and that’s a trait I wish I had.

He’s always the first person I ask when I’m stuck for an idea for a story or a column; always where I go when there’s a situation with a reporter who needs additional support or training.

He is an ambassador for the paper, representing the Colorado Publishing House during Chamber of Commerce trips and at countless networking activities.

We know Ralph will still be engaged in the community. After years on the Cheyenne Village Board of Directors, he’s active on the board of the Center for Nonprofit Excellence and several other community organizations. For most people, the only difference will be that he has more time to volunteer, away from the pressures of daily and weekly deadlines for three newspapers. He’ll remain on our masthead as executive editor emeritus, and we hope he’ll pitch in for future editions as people go on vacations or we end up needing some extra help.

But for those of us still tied to those daily and weekly deadlines — at the CSBJ, at our sister papers the Colorado Springs Independent and the Pikes Peak Bulletin — we’ll feel his absence.

We’ll manage, but we’ll miss Ralph’s steady hand and deft editing skills. We’ll miss his calm, “We’ll get it done” whenever deadlines near, work isn’t finished and tempers start to fray. Thanks to Ralph, we always got it done and stayed friendly.

On both a personal and a professional level, I owe Ralph Routon a huge debt. He — along with then-Publisher Jen Furda — was the one who promoted me to associate editor, then to editor. He’s supported my career aspirations and offered advice whenever I asked (and I asked frequently). There’s no way to thank him enough for his support.

It’s not nearly enough, but it needs to be said: On behalf of the entire CSBJ team, thank you, Ralph, for making the paper so successful.

Thank you for those late hours, those canceled vacations, those nights and weekends. The CSBJ is better for your having been involved — and so are the countless journalists you worked with throughout your long and storied career.

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