These days, it’s easy to envy people who have any job other than at a newspaper.
But not today.
Journalism has gotten pretty difficult over the last several years.
The Googles have sucked dry a lot of advertising dollars, shrinking already overtaxed newsrooms. Donald Trump ushered in an era of just lying about anything or just inventing “alternative facts” to misinform on whatever he liked. It’s a habit that has grown hugely popular with downstream politicians, all the way to local government.
Newsrooms, struggling to keep up with covering outright crazy, were gut-punched during the pandemic. Government officials and others, behind Zoom meetings and email, were able to further buffer themselves from hard questions for nearly two years.
Partly as a result of how the pandemic changed everything, The Sentinel is moving the newsroom. For now, fewer people coming to work fewer days of the week calls for less space.
While packing up our newspaper lives this week, I’ve come across a bevy of treasures from when a far-less convenient life seemed far more rewarding.
I found my prized pica pole, hailing back to a technology not much further along than molten lead type.
A long time ago, newspapers were actually created in composing rooms. There, reporters and editors, sneaking in to check a headline or cutline “on the bench” were waved out of the room by X-ACTO-knife wielding composers. The room was filled with molten wax, used to glue “galleys” created by a special printer to “flats.” Among the special tapes and blue-line pens, flats went to “camera” where technicians literally took pictures of the staged newspaper pages, creating life-size negatives. The negs were “burned” into printing plates with lights and acid, strapped onto massive printer rollers and, voila, in mere hours, the magic of newspapers created newspapers, as if by magic.
All of that is now a digital process without wax, knives, gnashing of teeth or curmudgeonly composers.
Back then, however, the trauma of making newspapers could ease into the psyche of journalists instead of slamming head on.
Taking notes and quotes from a sobbing neighbor about what led to a shooting or a lethal car crash was separated from seeing it all in print. After covering something gruesome, there was the car-trip back to the newsroom.
Typewriters or first-gen computers became the clackity conduit to rough drafts on copy paper, marked up with a copy pencil upstairs in the Denver Post smoking lounge. The process required making special marks that are now as hieroglyphic to budding journalists as is cursive to the class of 2023.
The story would move to the city desk editor, then maybe to the “slot,” the cruelest beast in the newsroom. The slot is an editor who remembers every grammar and style error made by every reporter since the dawn of time and bludgeons them with the recollection at every possible chance.
“Perry! You still don’t know the difference between ‘persuade’ and ‘convince’?”
I do now.
From there, a reporter’s fateful words would find their way to the composing room. Then camera, and finally, the plate room. By the time the building rumbled with rolling presses and the “bulldog” found its way back into the newsroom, a reporter would have told the story about how upsetting all that blood was and maybe even had a beer.
Now, “print” journalists file nearly live-time, often from the curb or even the car.
Journalists live in an instant world of chaos and Twitter posts.
In the back of our waning offices are boxes of old black-and-white photos, going back to the 1960s, some even to the early 1900s when this fishwrapper was called The Aurora Democrat and Adams County News.
I came across the Journalist of the Year Award for former Editor Jack Bacon, honored as the top newspaperperson in 1993. He was an amazing man who breathed news stories and copy style as easily and often as he did the cigarettes he was constantly lighting, snubbing and relighting.
He called them “snipes,” and his office and writing reeked of lingering Turkish tobacco.
Here’s a photo of the day we launched The Aurora Daily Sun, April 30, 2004. The page-one story “above the fold” was about pornography filters coming to library computers. A story in the right rail explained how a political fundraiser at The Stampede with Peter Coors and then Gov. Bill Owens turned into an anti-press event after The Sentinel’s intrepid photographer was booted from the event not once, but twice. “An unidentified event official demanded the photographer’s camera.”
The photos and memories of the last 30 years come in a tsunami in these boxes and drawers.
The Pope came to Aurora once. He was nice. One time, a reporter had to get tested for bubonic plague after hanging out with infected prairie dogs as he worked on a story.
There was the time I learned to drive a police car, sirens wailing at top speed with our photographer kind of whimpering in the seat next to me. And the fighter jet ride, when the pilot asked if I was OK in the back seat and suggested I try breathing as I felt the pressure of my liver press hard against my knotty spinal cord.
Here’s a picture of former Sheriff Pat Sullivan and me digging up old unexploded bombs near the Aurora Reservoir. Sullivan bombed his own life and career after he retired and traded a lifetime of law enforcement for being a meth head who lured young men with drugs in exchange for sex.
Here’s a picture of John Kerry, then a presidential candidate, reading from one of my columns at a campaign event at Fitzsimons.
That’s a picture another reporter took during the Elijah McClain protests when shooting broke out on I-225, closed because of a massive march. I was talking with him on the phone as the event was unfolding when suddenly he said, “Somebody’s shooting.” All I could hear then was him running and people yelling. He was running toward the gunfire.
Between the plane crashes, car crashes, gazillion elections, shootings and protests, there have been thousands of hours spent with amazing people who make up this place called Aurora.
Teachers, mechanics, inventors, swimmers, actors, moms and more.
Packed up, it all goes to our new, nearby digs.
There are old newspapers going back decades and millions of words, photos and memories stored as electrons somewhere on a server.
As a journalist, I not only have been able to lead my life, but I’ve been allowed to sport the lives of tens of thousands of people all across the region.
Although there are real hardships, I’m OK with just moving, and we’ve got lots to tell you about what comes next.
Despite the complaining, it’s still the best job in the world.
Follow @EditorDavePerry on Mastadon, Twitter and Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or dperry@SentinelColorado.com
See there is not a lot of paid ads in this weeks print edition. Fewer each week but lots of governmental notices. Don’t think you can survive on those paid notices.
Still a lot of free ads saying what honest journalism the Sentinel Blog represents. Full page ad on page two. Then two pages of editorials. Makes me search for real Aurora news.
Moving to less expensive location, I’m sure. Really enjoyed the picture of you flunking a physical and driving a police car in a lovely helmet.
Right on schedule for the Blogs demise at the end of the year. Hope you didn’t get a years lease.
what a nasty man you are Dick. Wonder if you post this nastiness to get attention?
Well Sugar, honey, I suppose I got your attention, so that’s at least one. Do you think of me as nasty because you disagree with my thoughts? Or are you just hateful to anyone that thinks differently than you?
I know another commenter, a social worker, that almost never starts her comments with a Capital letter. Are you her or maybe a social worker? Just a small mystery to me.
If anyone is hateful. . . .it’s you. Has nothing to do with you thinking differently.
Sorry, Sugar, honey, you’re hopeless and make no sense. I’ll continue to respond to you in the future but after I do, it always seems to make me feel that I’ve brought myself down to your level of incompetence.
I do hate somethings but not you, Sugar honey. Socialists in America and stupidity deserve hatred.
You do sound like you have a good supply of hatred. Think you need a hug.
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