Off and running – the birth of the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor
By Rick Padden
There are many moments a journalist may hold in memory as remarkable – usually relating to the privilege of reporting world or local events that others may also remember as important, historical milestones. But no news, no catastrophe, and no event covered by a newspaper, can stir the heart of a journalist like being involved in the actual birth of a newspaper.
Fifteen years ago, I had the honor of enjoying such heart palpitations, and the thrill of joining the Justice-Hemmann family’s startup of the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor.
At the Pacific Daily News in Guam, as a freshman journalist just out of the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas, I found myself thrust into a journalist’s dream world: maximum military activity, extreme weather, world leaders passing through regularly, rampant government corruption, outrageous crime and endless cultural meshing made for a dizzying plethora of things to photograph and write about.
I covered a disaster as the lone reporter/photographer on Majuro Atoll when an unexplained tidal surge left 10,000 homeless; and was the pool reporter for U.S. wire services when Enewetak Atoll, the site of extensive post-WWII nuclear testing, was returned to its people after massive cleanup efforts.
I enjoyed the thrill of seeing my photos regularly picked up by the Associated Press and going national, while working at the Lafayette (Indiana) Journal and Courier.
I stalked the Denver Broncos’ sidelines with my camera for the Pueblo (Colorado) Chieftain when John Elway was just a rooky and Gary Kubiak was his backup QB. There I also learned the value of “feature” photos, or slice-of-life imagery, which led to numerous and gratifying awards.
At the Rockford (Illinois) Register-Star, I remember designing a front page with “WOW” in 8-inch tall letters – hailing one of the space shuttle’s spectacular launchings.
Another big moment for me was the privilege of designing and laying out the Honolulu Advertiser’s Peal Harbor 50th anniversary edition (presented entirely in the style of the time period). Later at the Advertiser, I laid out the front page and typed the words “It’s War!” for the first Gulf War in Iraq, in addition to processing/publishing the first-ever digitally-transmitted Associated Press color photograph. No, war is not good, but it is significant news, and its reporting does indeed leave impressions on journalists as well as its participants.
As an early Mac junky, my interest in computers and newspaper pagination systems led me to what I refer to as my “decade of insanity” and work as the systems manager for Lehman Communications (Longmont Times-Call, Loveland Reporter-Herald, etc.) before returning to earth as news editor of the Estes Park Trail-Gazette. After all, everyone likes to hate the IT guys, eh?
And in Estes Park I learned to appreciate community journalism. It isn’t where the money is, but ultimately, it’s where a journalist finds heart. It’s where real connections with readers occur. You get to know them, and they get to know you. What you convey to them – the relationship – somehow seems to matter more. It’s more intimate.
I’ll always treasure the opportunity and trust that publisher Becky Justice-Hemmann subsequently placed in me as a member of the Surveyor’s startup team, and the chance to be a part of a very special community endeavor.
What I’ve detailed above is not meant to be a resume (I no longer need a job in journalism), but it is meant to provide points of reference – instances of relativity, I suppose, as the startup did indeed matter to me in relation to my career on the whole.
No story I’d ever written; no photo I’d ever shot; no page I’d ever designed; and no opinion I’d ever penned could compare with the rush of typing on my computer under the masthead of the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor 15 years ago, the following: Volume 1, Number 1.
It wasn’t about reporting history, it was making history, and I’m thankful to have been a part of it. It was important to me to be a part of the Berthoud community, and its history. I’m glad to have had the chance to do it.
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