One day in the fall of 1962, when I was in fifth grade, my mother took two handwritten pages to the newspaper in our small Arkansas town.
It was my first submission for print, scrawled on notebook paper, a timid but ambitious 10-year-old describing a junior-varsity football game. But with my broken left wrist in a cast (and I’m left-handed), the story was written in pencil using my right hand.
Of course, to my horror, the Hope Star published it, word for word. And now here I am, 55 years and about 7 million words later, writing my final piece before retiring as executive editor of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. Actually, my last position has been executive editor of the Colorado Publishing House, also working with the Colorado Springs Independent and Pikes Peak Bulletin, including columns of varying regularity in all three.
Hereafter, my title will change to executive editor emeritus, with occasional columns possibly resuming in 2018. We’ll just have to see how that develops.
But don’t worry, this won’t be an emotional litany of memories from more than a half-century in journalism. Let’s put the focus here where it should be — on the Business Journal.
Sometime in late 2011, our company’s owner, John Weiss, asked to meet about a new proposition. We previously had explored the possibility of adding business coverage to the Independent, in part to compete against the long-established CSBJ and its then-owner, the Minneapolis-based Dolan Media Group. But that didn’t match the Indy’s identity or audience, so we scrapped that plan.
In the process, though, Weiss discovered Dolan might want to sell this newspaper. We discreetly checked it out, realizing the CSBJ had a positive image and credibility. We also learned, and later reconfirmed, that many area leaders felt it was important for Colorado Springs to have its own business publication, though others were faltering in comparably sized markets.
The deal was done that spring, and we took over on June 1, 2012. My job as executive editor was to revitalize the printed product, which still had a solid staff but had suffered from multiple leadership changes and deep budget cuts.
I felt like a veteran coach being asked to change sports. For instance, saying, “OK, Troy Calhoun, you’ve done a lot as Air Force’s football coach, so how about taking over men’s soccer?” Similar work, but with a million differences.
My philosophy has always been to play the hand you’re dealt, maintaining staff continuity while slowly implementing changes. My priorities were simple. The CSBJ needed more emphasis on people, especially women and young professionals, as well as small businesses, along with a modernized appearance and better editing.
As executive editor, with talented writers already on board, my main task was to fill their plates constantly with ideas for stories, interviews and beat coverage. I quickly learned the main difference from all of my previous jobs — communicating B2B (business to business) instead of business to consumer. But we also felt compelled to cover local government, more than other business publications, because we saw the importance of local government issues to all businesses, no matter how large or tiny.
Eventually, our equation for a fresh product every week with broader variety and appeal took hold. Then came redesigning the CSBJ’s look, starting with the front page, adding more entry points for telling readers what they could find inside. With that, along with the stability and consistency, we were on our way, and the staff’s many subsequent awards have been gratifying. I also must mention the efforts of former publisher Jen Furda, whose boundless energy and innumerable relationships across the city made a huge difference.
We’ve evolved along the way, as my main goal became a personal version of succession planning. I couldn’t be prouder of Amy Gillentine Sweet, first rising into the editor role and now as COO, along with Bryan Grossman as managing editor. They are seasoned pros, and they don’t need my help to continue the ongoing process of making the Business Journal even more valued, relevant and essential to the community.
I’m so happy for them, and what we’ve achieved these past five-plus years. But now it’s time to take the step into that “emeritus” role, far better than being told to leave. I’ll still be around, and involved, but now as a spectator, cheering the CSBJ’s continued successes and writing when it makes sense to contribute.
What will you do next, some have asked. For years, I’ve listed my hobbies as piano and golf, both long ignored. So maybe now I can look for the nearest jam sessions — and the No. 1 tee.