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 May 21, 2010

Freelancing for NCBR all part of writer’s grand plan

I had a plan. I just didn’t know if it would work. How it would work. Or if I even wanted it to work.

My plan was this: Graduate from college with a journalism degree, work for about 10 years, get married, have babies and freelance while the babies grew into self-sufficient people.

Twenty years later, I see that my plan has indeed worked. That the plan has been a success is due in large part to the Northern Colorado Business Report.

My association with NCBR began 14 years ago – a year after the birth of my second child and a year after NCBR hit the news racks – when I sent off a letter to Chris Wood letting him know I was available.

My first assignment: The North American Free Trade Agreement and its effect on Northern Colorado businesses. I remember scrambling to get the story done on my trusty Apple IIE and thought I had done a pretty good job of it. Chris thought otherwise. The story was lacking in sources, depth and overall content. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t good.

Do over.

It was the best thing that ever happened to me as a writer. I went back and interviewed additional people from businesses affected by NAFTA, rewrote the story and saw it in print a few weeks later.

The assignments kept coming: Real estate, banking, agriculture, auto industry, retail, businesses, business people and business organizations. Over the years I’ve covered it all – if it was happening along the Northern Front Range.

Contributing writers came and left. And so did editors. I no longer remember all of their names, but I do remember the ones who made a difference to me as a writer.

From Chris I learned that business news is hard news. This was important; my background up until then was feature news and people profiles. But I also learned that interviewing a CEO of a large corporation is no different than interviewing the conductor of a community orchestra. Each has a story to tell, insight to offer and expertise on his or her subject. I continually strive to show the human side of business news.

Speak up with confidence

From Tom Hacker I learned self-confidence as a business writer. It’s one thing to think you’re good at your craft, it’s a whole other thing to hear it from a respected colleague. Tom was always good with pats on the back and compliments, but only when deserved.

From Sonja Bisbee Wulff I learned to speak up for my writing. I’ve always been of the mindset that editors are there for writers, to help smooth out sentences that don’t quite work, to make sure AP Style is followed, and to make us double-check our facts when necessary. And, if it needs it, to request a rewrite.

Sonja, however, had a tendency to do the rewrite herself. In her voice. She was a great writer, but her changes didn’t mesh with my style. My stories were no longer mine, so I spoke up. It was difficult to do, but the result was that any necessary rewrites would be done by me.

From Bob Baun I learned that it’s fun to make a serious man laugh. It took me many months of phone calls regarding assignments before it happened, but I can’t describe the glee I felt when I finally heard him chuckle, ever so slightly.

From Steve Porter I learned that editors, even if your only contact is by phone, can be fun. I looked forward to his calls because they were almost always about more than what assignments I wanted to tackle. Oh yeah, there’s one other thing I liked about working with Steve. He gave me story choices. I usually chose the fun ones.

And from Kate Hawthorne, I learned that it’s OK not to have choices, but to do what you’re offered. Even if it’s, ahem, one more auto industry story. I also learned that working for a female editor, especially one as smart and cynical as Kate, can be a good thing.

How is the plan working for me now? Truth be told, very well. The kids are indeed self-sufficient and I am heading back to a traditional office setting. It is my hope, however, that NCBR is not ready to sever ties. I’m certainly not.

Luanne Kadlub’s byline has appeared in NCBR more than 360 times since October 1996. She also works as media specialist for the Better Business Bureau.

I had a plan. I just didn’t know if it would work. How it would work. Or if I even wanted it to work.

My plan was this: Graduate from college with a journalism degree, work for about 10 years, get married, have babies and freelance while the babies grew into self-sufficient people.

Twenty years later, I see that my plan has indeed worked. That the plan has been a success is due in large part to the Northern Colorado Business Report.

My association with NCBR began 14 years ago – a year after the birth of my second child and…

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