STRINGER: My Sentinel tenure was like riding a comet through the center of the universe

In “My Father’s House,” members of various ethnic and religious groups packed into the new Village Exchange Center for an event sharing food from different cultures. Stories Grant Stringer covered focusing on this center were specifically memorable for him.
Screen grab from documentary “My Father’s House.”

Every reporter who leaves the Sentinel has the pleasure, or torture, of writing what we call a “swan song,” a farewell to Aurora and the truly wonderful people here. 

About a two and a half years ago, Editor Dave Perry told me over the phone that I would be joining the Sentinel as a reporter. It was my first full-time job as a journalist, and I had just turned 23, although I probably looked like I was 13. (Now, I look like I’m 15.) 

I was virtually unemployed at the time and, I’m ashamed to say, asleep when he called me. Not to mention, it was about 10 a.m. 

In those first weeks and months at our old newsroom, off of Iliff Avenue and Peoria Street, I felt very much what I was feeling now: The conviction that this newspaper is extremely important, and the people keeping the wheels on are true gems. I owe each of them a tremendous debt of gratitude for their patience with me while I learned, slowly, how to become a professional reporter in all senses of the word. 

I’m not from here. But I quickly realized that what happens in Aurora, on a day-to-day basis, is also extremely important. I hope you don’t think I’m sarcastic when I say now that Aurora is one of the most important places in this country. It is. 

What happens here is always emblematic of something larger: income inequality, racial tensions, the infernal housing market, policing, homelessness, urban and suburban growth. Aurora contains everything that the U.S. has to offer and more. As such, Aurora’s response to social issues tells the country’s story. 

This place truly contains multitudes. 

It was strange coming to this conclusion in spite of everything I’d been told about Aurora. It’s obvious in speaking with metro Denverites not from here, who have probably never spent time here in a meaningful way, that this city is routinely ridiculed because of poverty and crime. Aurora is so much more than that.

Here I was, a person not from around here, spending meaningful time here every day. So I can confidently say: The average Auroran is much more welcoming and down-to-earth than the average Denverite or Boulderite. 

It was a personal joy to learn this. 

Behind most articles I penned was a rich and very personal experience for me that often verged on spirituality, although I’m not religious. That’s something that Marcel Narucki, a former pastor now at the Village Exchange Center, once talked about with me. And apologies, reader — I’m sure my obvious enthusiasm clouded some articles in flowery language and digressions, despite the best attempts of my editors.

So it is hard to leave. I’m moving back to the Pacific Northwest, where I’m from, to be closer to my family. First, I’ll ride my bike across the country and write some about the people and places I encounter. I’ll likely also attempt to write a novel. No promises. 

If you’d like to follow along, follow me on Twitter @Stringerjourno. 

Sincerely: Thank you to all of the fine people who spoke with me over the years, and to the Sentinel staff, who will undoubtedly keep the wheels on despite the odds and continue aspiring to the highest-quality journalism. This community deserves nothing less. 

Grant Stringer was a reporter for Sentinel Colorado.

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8 months ago

Self important?