April 23, 2010

Relationships best part of NCBR, beats

Champagne corks were the oddities that first captured my interest when I came to the Northern Colorado Business Report as a staff writer in June 1999.

They seemed to be everywhere. And everyone – from co-publishers Chris Wood and Jeff Nuttall to business manager Lori Buderus, and all the sales reps, writers and graphic artists – had them on their desks amid the paper clips and sticky notes.

Must have been some kind of party, I thought. Especially with the evidence lasting … what, three years?

The corks had popped in 1996 when NCBR finally outlasted two rival publications to become the region’s only newspaper dedicated to covering business and the economy in Northern Colorado.

I had no part in the newspaper wars. But I was a beneficiary of the Business Report‘s win, and NCBR became one of the most important parts of my long, itinerate journalism career. Nowhere had I served longer, and nowhere had I made better friends.

I first became the editor of the Business Report within a few months of my arrival. I drew on my experience as business editor of the Burlington Free Press, the statewide newspaper for Vermont. My beat there was Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, Vermont Teddy Bear, Cabot cheese and Burton Snowboards. I made friends there, too, including ice cream kings Jerry Greenfield and Ben Cohen, and snowboard impresario Jake Burton.

I also brought my experience as the editor of one of the two competing weekly newspapers in Jackson Hole, Wyo. But my hometown, Fort Collins, and the region around it, became much more fertile ground for closer and longer-lasting relationships with people in the business community. Those associations are what I treasure most from my career at NCBR.

Relationship-based profession

No other profession is more relationship-based than journalism. Building trust and developing reliable sources for information has always been the key to NCBR‘s success.

But some of the relationships I cultivated there grew into friendships so close that I had to cross some names off my reporter’s source list. We had become too cozy for journalistic comfort.

Editors of small publications are also beat reporters. My beats were health care and, somewhat ironically, real estate. As my successor in the editor’s job, Kate Hawthorne, once said, “You know, you might be the only real estate writer in the state who owns no property.”

On that beat, I became acquainted with Fort Collins developer Bill Neal. His philosophy of smart ways to develop the region’s shrinking amount of open space was visionary. His death in a 2004 plane crash close to home was a loss that the region still mourns. I could not have asked for a better friend.

Another friend is Martin Lind, a sixth-generation beet farmer whose creativity transformed a moonscape of gravel pits in southern Windsor into Water Valley, one of the West’s most beautiful, and successful, real estate developments. Authenticity and integrity are his hallmarks.

Spiro Palmer, and his sons Aki and Jim, Stu MacMillan, Dan Eckles, Michael Ehler, Byron Collins, Dan Stroh, Jim Mokler, Bob Tointon, brothers Chad and Troy McWhinney, and so many others helped dismantle my long-standing belief that all real estate developers and brokers had to be back-stabbing, buck-chasing rogues.

When I first arrived at NCBR, competition in the region’s health-care industry was just beginning, as indigenous Poudre Valley Health System and Phoenix-based Banner Health jostled to carve up the Northern Colorado market. I had close associations on both sides of that battle line, with PVHS chief executive Rulon Stacey, as well as with former North Colorado Medical Center CEO Jon Sewell and his two successors, Gene O’Hara and Rick Sutton.

In 1999, David Badders depicted Stacey and Banner regional CEO Scott Bosch arm-wrestling. What’s changed in 10 years? Only one of the names. Stacey remains, while Bosch is long gone, but the wrestling continues.

In 2003, I left the Business Report to test the waters in public relations, as lots of journalists do. I enjoyed the people I worked with, but not the work. When I was invited to return to NCBR I was re-energized. Something about the place draws people back. True for me, and for a number of other repeat employees.

The most important of all the relationships developed during my double-header NCBR career were those with members of the staff. I thank you, Chris and Carol Wood, and thank you, Jeff and Kathy Nuttall, for opening a door for me, twice.

When champagne corks pop again – how about for a 20th anniversary? – I’d like to be on hand.

Tom Hacker edited the Northern Colorado Business Report from 1999 to 2003, and then again from 2006 to 2009. He is now a reporter for the Loveland Reporter Herald.

Champagne corks were the oddities that first captured my interest when I came to the Northern Colorado Business Report as a staff writer in June 1999.

They seemed to be everywhere. And everyone – from co-publishers Chris Wood and Jeff Nuttall to business manager Lori Buderus, and all the sales reps, writers and graphic artists – had them on their desks amid the paper clips and sticky notes.

Must have been some kind of party, I thought. Especially with the evidence lasting … what, three years?

The corks had popped in 1996 when NCBR finally outlasted two rival publications to become the region’s…

Related Content