Newspaper changes spark memories

I woke up this morning to find myself quoted by my old friend Ed Quillen in his Denver Post column about the Rocky Mountain News closure. The funny thing was that he pulled the “at least the cows have jobs” quote from the first column I wrote for him when he started Colorado Central magazine in March 1994.

While all eyes were fixed on the Rocky Mountain News closure last week, three other Colorado newspapers underwent a big change. The Boulder Daily Camera, Colorado Daily and the Broomfield Enterprise were turned over to MediaNews Group when the Rocky folded.

I have personal history with both the Camera and the Daily — I reported for both while a journalism student at the University of Colorado.

In those days the Daily didn’t consider itself just a campus newspaper and competed with the Camera for news both on-campus and throughout the city. My job for the Daily was mainly to cover the CU student government, which in those days had a budget bigger than some small cities. I also free-ranged any other stories I found, and once broke a story that went national when I revealed an infestation of cockroaches in the student union building. In trade for my reporting the Daily was to give me a scholarship that paid my tuition and books for a year.

But after one semester I was fired over my reporting style. There was a letter of dismissal containing points that I would dispute, and a copy was sent to the journalism school dean. I sought counsel with the CU legal services over what I believed to be a case of libel. But the dean intervened, called me into his office one day and presented me with a check for the second semester.

The next year I found myself as an intern for the Camera as part of one of my reporting classes. One day I caught wind of a story that I thought was pretty good. Beavers had built a dam in one of the campus drainage ditches and the resulting backup had flooded the engineering building basement. Besides just being plain interesting, the irony of rodent dam-builders flooding the engineering building did not escape me. I didn’t even ask first — I just made the calls and wrote the story.

When I presented it to my editor he looked it over and told me that it wasn’t a news story. He didn’t want it. I walked out of the Camera building shaking my head.

By the next day the Denver media had descended on campus to report on the beaver story and television crews and reporters were seen by the drainage ditch and pond east of the engineering building.

Sometime that day I got a sheepish call from my editor.

“You still have that beaver story?”

If my memory serves me, it ran front page with art the next day.

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