Something better is in store

The word came today that I will be laid off from my part-time job as an editor for The Pueblo Chieftain beginning in two weeks. Managing Editor Steve Henson and I played phone tag for the better part of the day and when I finally reached him late in the afternoon I broke the ice: “Steve . . . Are you calling to lay me off?”

I’ve known and worked with Steve for the better part of 27 years, so I didn’t feel like I was being too flip. And I had a pretty good idea what was coming.

Steve explained the decision was purely financial — like most newspapers these days the Chieftain has been experiencing tough times — and had nothing to do with my job performance.

I originally went to work for the company back in the summer of 1981 as an intern reporter for the Pueblo Star-Journal. I went back to the University of Colorado that fall to finish my degree in journalism and returned to Pueblo the following spring to take a job on the Chieftain copy desk.

Over the years I’ve had a tempestuous history with the newspaper, quitting for two weeks in 1983, taking a three-month leave of absence in 1985, ascending to management as the regional editor in 1986, and starting the newspaper’s graphics design desk in 1987. I quit in 1988 over a flap with management, but was hired back in 1991, quitting again in 1997 — over yet another disagreement with a previous managing editor.

Between these stints at the Chieftain I managed to gain experience in other areas of journalism, including freelance writing, book and magazine publishing, technical editing, marketing and producing and managing web content. Ironically, some of these are skills the Chieftain will need to turn the tide of loss in the Internet era.

In 2004 I was hired back part-time and I’ve devoted a great deal of time and energy over the last four years to improving many of the stories that have appeared in the newspaper. It seems strange to have the newspaper quit me this time, but this sort of thing is happening at newspapers all over the country and I’m pretty certain this will be the last time I walk out the Chieftain’s doors.

The phone call left me with mixed emotions. There is the tendency to want to be angry on some level but I wasn’t really angry at all. I could be embarrassed, but then this isn’t about ability or work performance, and how could I have known 27 years ago that I was perhaps not making the best career choice?

I have decided to focus instead on a sense of newfound freedom. I can concentrate on freelance writing and editing, and build on my ranch caretaking business. Now I can spend evenings now doing something other than chasing typos, fixing syntax, checking facts in stories, writing headlines and “quickreads ” and waiting to edit late reports from boring meetings. Mostly I’ll miss the people I worked with.

This evening I pulled my son Harrison around the property on his sled. It was warm and windless, and I had a glimpse of how life will be now. My history has always been that when one door closes another one opens, and I’m confident something else — something better — is in store.

7 thoughts on “Something better is in store

  1. Hey Hal —

    As a journalist I’m sorry to hear you got hit by the lay-off hammer (probably the first time a reporter feels any sympathy for the copy desk). But I see the effects of this downturn on the industry the same way you see it for yourself — an opportunity. The old brass will finally have to succumb to the future and the Internet and new ideas can maybe make journalism better.

    I just survived some layoffs at our paper and can’t say I wasn’t a touch disappointed — I desperately need the paycheck to finance two small kids but I had a day or two of daydreaming about what could be after they told me I *might* get the axe (See also: Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin).

    Anyway, from reading your blog and column in Colorado Central it’s clear you won’t even need to land on your feet since you’ll likely find other footing before you ever slip.

  2. WIth its near-monopoly status (and not much competition from Craigslist, bloggers, etc.) I would have thought the Chieftain was better off than most papers. But I suppose that advertising revenue is down for it too.

    I am glad to hear that you are thinking of this as “cutting the cord” more than as “getting dumped.”

  3. hal walter worked for me as a college intern up in craig on a daily, and we
    almost became partners in the ten mile times, but he stayed in pueblo. my dad
    was editor of the chieftain back in the sixties after selling his daily
    newspaper in rocky ford in 1956 and joining that very dominate regional
    newspaper as state editor. hal is very a competent newspaperperson. i got him
    started running and he’s been a world champ burro racer. his blog:

    >in another bit of info: hal’s wife mary’s sister is janet elich, butch’s wife.
    butch is a remax realtor in frisco. the eliches live in bill’s ranch.

  4. Miles
    He sounds like a real character, someone you would like to meet and would remember. Before we became a homoginized nation, we would call him an individual.

    Larry Sawyer

    larry sawyer is a frisco town councilman who recently wrote a letter critical of the “liberal” media to the summit daily news which laid off several folks from its newsroom.

    miles writes a weekly social column, “hey, spike! life on the summit,” appearing on page 8 in friday’s edition.

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