That’s all he wrote: Tom Ross to retire in June
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When I sat down at my desk in the old Steamboat Pilot newsroom at 1009 Lincoln Ave. in February 1979, I was relieved to be confronted by an electric typewriter.
At my first reporting job in the small dairy town of Chilton, Wisconsin, in 1977, I was stunned to find they expected me to pound out the news on a manual typewriter. Those first two weeks were a struggle until I could make it back to Madison and buy myself a used electric.
I could not have guessed, at the time, the extent the tools we use to put out a community newspaper would evolve over the span of four decades.
I began my career learning to develop black and white film in a makeshift darkroom. Today, we often download images from our mobile devices.
All of the new tools at our disposal have made us much more efficient, but they haven’t altered our role in one of the most genuine mountain towns in the American West.
I am writing to you today to confirm that after 36 years, over the span of almost four decades and so many changes in newspapering, I am retiring from my role at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. It is a community institution that I will always revere.
I want to reassure you that the newspaper is fortunate to have Colorado Mountain News Media as its ownership group. The company executives have a firm grip on newspapering in mountain resort towns and are intent on refining the business model in the digital age.
When the Simons family of Lawrence, Kansas, and former Publisher Suzanne Schlicht sought a new ownership group for this newspaper, they did us a favor by selecting Swift Communications’ Colorado Mountain News Media.
As I ease out of the newsroom in June, I also want to make certain that you understand how devoted Editor Lisa Schlichtman is to community newspapering. Lisa is a rare blend of compassion and toughness. Those are qualities that make her ideally suited to the role.
When I first took my seat in the newsroom, Dee Richards, another woman of remarkable character, sat at the editor’s classic roll-top desk. She preferred her manual typewriter but would ultimately make the leap straight to an Apple computer.
Dee was there to make certain the new reporter on the beat understood how special Steamboat, with its rare combination of ranching and skiing heritage, really is.
It isn’t a culture predicated on marketing. Steamboat was then, and continues to be, a singular community that welcomes newcomers and initiates them into its special customs.
In 1979, I was thrilled that, as the Steamboat Pilot’s new sports reporter, I was going to be compensated for hanging around skiing competitions with a Nikon around my neck and a notebook in my pocket. I quickly came to realize that the width and breadth of my assignments in this remote town would offer much more.
That spring, I had two unforgettable experiences in South Routt County.
Dee sent me off to the town of Yampa to drive up Bear River, the headwaters of the Yampa, where construction crews with giant earthmovers were building Yamcolo Reservoir. The bulldozers had reportedly unearthed a mastodon bone.
But I wasn’t prepared for what I would find.
As I drove up to the construction office, expecting to be shown a fossil, I glimpsed what looked like a giant chicken thighbone sitting on the tailgate of a pickup truck.
What stunned me was that I could easily lift the bone in my arms. This relic of the late ice age had been lying sealed in the mud of the riverbed for eons.
That same spring, I set off in the direction of Yampa again, this time to find the Egeria Park roping ground. My assignment was to cover something called a draft horse-pulling contest. Ranchers from all over the county had gathered to see whose team could pull the most weight across the roping arena on a sled.
The ranchers were decked out in dusty cowboy hats and battered boots. They were the real deal, and I was drawn to them.
I’ve also had the experience of sitting on the floor of a kitchen with the head of a days-old calf in my lap while a ranch woman bottle fed it colostrum in a vain attempt to save its life.
Getting to know Routt County’s ranching families is an experience I will always carry with me. But I could say the same about so many people in different walks of life who tutored me along the way.
Through all of the changes in Routt County and Steamboat Springs, at the Steamboat Pilot & Today, we strive each day to reflect this special community back onto its residents, pointing out the changes and reminding them of the legacy they have been entrusted with.
As I ease out of my role at the newspaper, I want to assure you that Judy and I aren’t going anywhere. We’ve always felt that Steamboat is ideally located as a base camp for exploring the American West.
And right now, the open spaces and mountain towns are calling to us loudly.
Judy would tell you that when we travel, I am always taking notes and photographs. And newspaper management has told me that they would welcome my submissions of personal columns from time to time.
I hope to see you down the road.
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