As I look back on my chequered career, I’m mildly dismayed by my professional choices. I’m proud of my first job — cleaning up after elephants, rhinos, giraffes and other exotic fauna summers at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
It was honest, worthwhile toil, but subsequent labor was much more fun. Spent the 1960s sailing around the world on a 40-year-old wooden sailboat, was an NYC investment banker when the market collapsed in the late 1970s, captained a yacht for a shadowy guy hiding out in the Caribbean for a year or two, moved back here to my hometown when the Feds arrested him in 1981, worked as a real estate broker during the savings and loan collapse of the 1980s, city councilor in the 1990s, and finally became a sort-of journalist in 1997.
Within a few years, I had a full-time gig cranking out features and columns for CSBJ and its sister publication the Indy, and loving it.
And yup, I should have stuck with investment banking, made a ton of money and retired 20 years ago. I’m far from rich, but being a small-time player in a profession so important to our democracy has been deeply satisfying.
Journalists are seldom celebrated, except by awards handed out by their own professional associations. For bloviating politicians, school superintendents, shady business people and anyone with something to hide, local reporters are seen as noxious pests. Many of our fellow citizens seem to believe that journalists aren’t real writers at all — just hacks grinding out dreary copy that no one reads. And in the era of social media, a viral unedited, unsourced and unresearched Twitter post seems more powerful than a five-part investigative series in a local newspaper.
Yet newspaper dudes prevail, especially here in Colorado Springs. While many small and medium-sized cities have become news deserts thanks to the closure of long-established local dailies/weeklies, our city is a luxuriant news jungle. Thanks to Uncle Phil Anschutz, the staunchly conservative Gazette is fat and happy, while CSBJ and its fiercely independent sister pubs are smarter, leaner and a lot more fun.
We/they carry on a proud legacy. Print newspapers have been published in the Pikes Peak region since the 1860s. The feel, flavor and physicality of these ancient pubs is quite wonderful, as I found when I bought a bound volume of the 1921 Colorado Springs Evening Telegraph at auction years ago.
It was a big tabloid (23.5 inches by 17.5 inches), beautifully printed and fastidiously laid out. I‘ve read through multiple editions, and have yet to find any errors in spelling, punctuation or grammar. The ad count would delight any publisher, and the comprehensive local news and gossip is lots of fun. I hoped that one of my relatives would appear, and sure enough; my grandmother (then 50) lost the country club tennis championship on July 17 to my mother’s best friend, Charlotte Gile (then 23).
Ute chief Buckskin Charlie was remembered in July by a warm, egalitarian and thoughtful obituary, written by 27-year-old Ford Frick. He’d go on to become Commissioner of Baseball, probably the most eminent position ever attained by a lowly Springs reporter.
The city celebrated its 50th birthday on Saturday, July 30. The parade, led by Colorado Gov. Oliver Shoup, focused on “the time when the city, half a century ago, let out a lusty yell and took its place in the nation’s family of towns large and small.” Featuring multiple floats, decorated automobiles, the municipal band, the DAR, the VFW and other civic organizations, the parade began at 3 p.m. and ended with a picnic and speeches in Monument Valley Park. The paper also praised the “seventy-oners” who had founded the community, and wrote without irony about the coming of “civilization and the white man.”
And even though the Telegraph’s extensive Society page targeted women readers, other sections aimed at men. Here’s a headline from “The Stage” subsection.
“‘Girls! Girls! Gobs and Gobs of Beautiful Girls!’ Feminine Pulchritude Features the Pan Show at the Burns Tomorrow and Tuesday.” Leaving aside its inherently offensive content, it’s hard not to be impressed by the skill and audacity of the headline writer. I somehow doubt that the Telegraph’s stodgy successor (the Gazette and the E.T. merged in 1946) will ever use the word pulchritude in a headline, but there’s still time. How about “Pulchritudinous City Celebrates Sesquicentennial?”
Fifty-seven days and counting…