CU journalism alums happily report and edit in Steamboat Springs
By Mike Lawrence (MA ’05)
Nearly all of them thought they’d only be in Steamboat Springs for a year. Maybe two. That’s the natural state of mind for young graduates fresh out of journalism school at the University of Colorado and arriving in Steamboat Springs to start a first job that, surely, is just a steppingstone to loftier career goals and larger markets.
But it’s funny how stepping stones can work. Sometimes you only need one – or the first one takes a little more time than expected.
For whatever reason, the Steamboat Pilot & Today newsroom has attracted a strong contingent of CU J-school grads, and nearly all have stayed several years or more. In a newsroom that also contains a Missouri Tiger, a Kansas Jayhawk, a K-State Wildcat and a Wisconsin Badger, among others, there’s a solid herd of Colorado Buffaloes.
Photographer and sports reporter John Russell (’90); editor Brent Boyer (’02); myself, the city reporter; sports reporter Luke Graham (’06), news editor Nicole Miller (’06) and entertainment reporter Nicole Inglis (’08) all occupy desks at the Pilot & Today. Russell joined the newsroom in 1990, Boyer in 2002, me in 2005, Graham and Miller in 2006, and Inglis in 2010.
“It’s not common, and it’s even more unusual that the same group will be there for that many years. For newspapers, I think (Steamboat) is No. 3, behind The Denver Post and Boulder Daily Camera,” Alan Kirkpatrick (MA ’96), internship director at CU’s journalism school, said of the number of Buffaloes at the same newspaper. “We had a situation like that in Durango for a few years, but nothing like what (Steamboat) is doing – there’s something in that community.”
Maybe it’s something in the water. Or something in the snow.
But the reasons and stories behind what’s kept them in Steamboat are as different as the people themselves. Some found a spouse and some bought a home. Some found paradise on a ski slope or mountain bike. Others talk about job security at the Pilot & Today, which as part of a family-owned company has stayed atop its intensely local market and weathered the economic recession and industry challenges better than many media outlets.
The Pilot & Today was named the top overall newspaper in its circulation class for the eighth time in nine years at the annual Colorado Press Association convention in February.
“Opportunities are limited elsewhere – job security here certainly helps,” Graham said. “You could find much, much worse places to be than Steamboat. … It’s a quality newspaper, and you can’t really beat the lifestyle.”
Graham and Russell traveled to Vancouver, B.C., last year, to cover numerous Steamboat athletes in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
It was Russell’s third experience covering the Winter Olympics for the Pilot & Today – he reported and took photos in Salt Lake City in 2002 and in Turin, Italy, in 2006.
“I’ve been lucky. The Steamboat Pilot & Today has always provided me with opportunities to grow as a writer and photographer,” Russell said. “I cover the same sports, but the people who are involved change every year … and the relationships I build with those people are constantly changing. No story is the same.”
He graduated from CU in May 1990 and started work in Steamboat a few weeks later. Russell, of course, thought he’d be at the Pilot & Today for a year. But in March 1991, on a blind date through bowling league connections, he met a woman named Jan. They married in 1993, altering his priorities and life’s course.
Boyer graduated in May 2002 and came to Steamboat in December of that year, after an internship at The Denver Post.
Boyer started as the education reporter, became the city editor in the summer of 2005 and editor in August 2007. He and his wife, Meg Boyer, the Pilot & Today’s advertising director, are expecting their first child in April.
“I thought success and happiness in journalism equated to circulation size of the newspaper you worked at,” Boyer said. “I’ve found that’s absolutely not the case.” He cited the tangible impacts of community journalism, in which people you write about often are next in line at the grocery store.
I graduated from the master’s program in May 2005 and started at the Pilot & Today on Halloween of that year. Like Boyer, I came to Steamboat after a summer internship – at the Rocky Mountain News, may she rest in peace – and started as the education reporter.
“What we have seen that differentiates CU journalism graduates from their peers around the state is the University’s internship program,” said Scott Stanford, general manager of the Pilot & Today. “These graduates tend to have clips and training that other schools don’t provide.”
That holds true for Graham, Miller and Inglis, as well.
Graham was an intern at the Craig Daily Press, owned by the Pilot & Today’s parent company, between his junior and senior years at CU. He said the experience gave him a leg up when the Steamboat newspaper later had an opening for a sports reporter.
“I will never forget when I got the call from (Stanford) offering me a job, because I was cleaning carpets and we were at a sewer flood on the Hill (in Boulder), and I was in chemical gear questioning why I went to college,” Graham said. “He could have offered me minimum wage and I would have said yes.”
Miller was a CPA intern at the Pilot & Today in the summer of 2006. Thankfully, she decided to come back as a full-time staffer.
“When I first came here from Boulder, the only thing I missed was that things weren’t open 24 hours any more,” said Miller, a homeowner and skier who has completed two triathlons. “I’ve always loved Steamboat. I have family here, and all my favorite childhood memories are from Steamboat.”
Inglis graduated in December 2008, interned at the Vail Daily, started at the Craig Daily Press in June 2009 and came to the Pilot & Today in July 2010.
She said she had hoped to land a job in Steamboat since a CU professor told her it’d be a good fit.
“It certainly hasn’t been easy, but knowing I wanted to be here and having it be the dream job I thought it would be pretty rewarding,” Inglis said.
“I tell other people what I do and where I work and they think it’s amazing.
“I feel pretty lucky.”
Cover photo: Seeing the sunny side of a ski resort town are, from left, Mike Lawrence, Nicole Miller, Brent Boyer, Luke Graham and Nicole Inglis. Photo by Matt Stensland/Steamboat Pilot & Today