Native Writes: Writing my life

Whenever I tell someone this is my 50th year in journalism, the response is either a gasp or a question. “Why stay? Must be for the fame and the money.”

Yeah, buddy.

It’s neither. Journalists aren’t highly paid and often aren’t beloved. It’s a desire to inform the public.

Some ask if I have written my “memoirs.”

I started, then stopped. Small town journalism is probably richer in life and people than that in the big cities and it’s certainly varied. Somewhere in my boxes lies a cassette tape, “Cada Cabeza es Un Mundo,” and it’s true. Every head is its own world.

The roots of my career began with the discovery that I could write nice prose. I had won contests with poetry, so I decided to move to the unrhymed word.

I fell in love with the printed word at an early age when my mom placed a Golden Book in my hands on the potty chair. It had a tray to thwart escapes, so it was a perfect place to read about a very talented goose, a little chicken who thought the sky was falling or a little goat with a bad attitude.

Time passed and I found myself the mother of three young sons who “read” books in the same circumstances until the eldest declared, “Mom, boys stand up.” The other two sat a little longer, over his protests.

He was 4 when Nellie Lewis’s horse lost its head in a remote field at the foot of Mt. Blanca and I somehow became first in line to take the job she had held with the Pueblo Chieftain in September 1967. I became a “stringer,” paid by the inch and the mile traveled.

This coming September will bring with it less nostalgia.

I got past Snippy and through college, where I was perceived as “already a professional” due to my work with the other paper. I almost memorized the AP Stylebook. Almost.

Asked about the biggest story I covered, I have no answer.

Murders, rapes, mayhem, public protests, ousted professionals, hotly contested elections? Hmmm.

One “story” that stands out in my mind was slogging through a horse pasture to talk with and photograph Robert Redford who was hoping to buy a Wiescamp horse. I went with another reporter who fared better than I did. I broke the upper zipper on my dress and had to hold my top up while I took photos. I think he talked with us because we had made that much effort to get to where he was.

Every story has been important, but not the biggest, unless one counts difficulty in getting information and the public’s hunger for details.

My favorite old judge, Robert Ogburn, pulled me aside and sought my comments on a booklet being produced by the Colorado Press Association and the state bar. I told him the First Amendment was routinely violated.

“Everyone is entitled to a fair trial, so pre-trial publicity needs to be limited,” the judge declared. The booklet came out minus my comments and it took a while before I understood.

The journey toward that understanding is important, but not book material. I have had to break myself from writing too much about any one topic. I verify my facts and all details.

Today, in light of current newscasts and presidential remarks, it may be crucial. Someone who has been a problem may declare that a story is “fake and inflammatory,” despite many pages of factual documentation.

The book may come. It’s harder labor than having a child because I am documenting everything, but I am learning a great deal about myself and others around me in the process.

Now if I could just go back to age 27…


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