Guest Columns

KERSGAARD: HAPPY TO FIND A NEW HOME IN A NEWSROOM

Statesman job feels good from the get-go

It’s good to be here. I just walked in the door, but I feel like I belong, like I have always belonged. It’s not often a life change feels so good from the get-go.

My first newspaper job came about by accident — and changed my life. I walked into the office of The University of Washington Daily to buy a television from a reporter there. I guess it was a place where no live body went to waste. I got the TV — and a story assignment.

I was supposed to interview a professor who was an expert on earthquakes. What I remember is walking past the professor’s office several times before screwing up the courage to knock on her door. The story made the front page of the next day’s paper, and I was hooked. I took my first paycheck to the student union to make a copy. I left the check in the machine and walked off with the copy. That was 30 years ago more or less. I’ve never looked back. Sideways a few times, but never back.

Except just now, of course.

I was walking down the street in Seattle on another day that changed my life. A former roommate saw me from across the street and yelled out that some newspaper in Idaho was trying to reach me. Next day, I was on a bus (Remember those?) to Idaho for my first real job interview. I got to town the day before the interview. It was a small town, Hailey, in the shadow of Sun Valley. Every hotel room for miles was booked because of a big wedding and a big music festival. I slept on a picnic table in the city park in my clothes. Next morning, walking to the interview, a bee landed on my face. Knocking it off, I broke my glasses.

The editor interviewing me looked like he just stepped out of the pages of GQ. Me? Not so much. Got the job, though. A year or so later, two other employees and I bought the paper. Had a blast. One thing inevitably leads to another, though, and I ended up at a newspaper in Vail. No bus ride to this interview. Got a speeding ticket in Utah on the way to the interview. Another on the way back. Should have taken the bus.

Another day that changed my life was the day that Tim Wirth, then one of Colorado’s U.S. senators, walked into the newspaper office for an interview. It went well. I got a great story. A few days later, I got a call from someone — I think it was Alan Salazar — asking if I would be interested in working for the senator. I was, and
I did.

On the first day on the job, Sen. Wirth gave a speech to a packed room at the University of Colorado. I stood in back, thinking that if I weren’t working for him, I’d volunteer. The man could give a speech. He never forgot a name, either. I can’t count the number of times I walked into a restaurant or business with him and watched him greet people by name. He was, and is, a good man, too.

Now you know something about my politics. Know this as well: I’m not here to make a point. I’m not here to nudge the world (or this newspaper) a little to the left. I’m here to facilitate a conversation. You and I have something in common. We’re passionate about politics and government. We think it matters.

I have great respect for anyone willing to hang it all out there in a run for elective office. I’ve been there. Some do it for ego. Some for power. Most simply because they have to. It’s in him or her the way sculpting is in someone else.

I’d much rather talk with someone I disagree with than with someone I agree with. I almost never learn much from people I agree with. I rarely fail to learn from those I disagree with. I’m fascinated by people who can articulately lay out a case, whether I agree or not.

At The Statesman, the conversation began 111 years ago. If I have anything to do with it, it will only become more spirited, more vigorous as time goes on.

There’s a lot to talk about.

Scot@coloradostatesman.com