The Tucson Citizen: readable, likable, my friend, the intelligent choice. The Citizen was my first publisher’s position. It is where I got my feet wet – and my underwear and pants, too, the day the pressroom blew up.
It has been more than 20 years since I departed my beloved Citizen. It was a difficult decision: Stay at the Citizen and Tucson or return to College Station, Texas, to parents, grandparents, Texas A&M, Aggie football. To Texas we went.
I have missed the Citizen from that day.
I remember the heyday of great journalism at the Citizen, some of the best, if not the best, that I have been associated with.
A couple that stand out:
• From Guatemala to Madison, Wis., the so-called Underground Railroad, an undertaking of enormous proportions by dedicated Citizen staff members who chopped their way through the jungles of Guatemala, the jungle of streets in Mexico City, the treacherous mountains and jungle of back roads in northern Mexico, crossing the border undetected through a jungle of tunnels with guides and political refugees and reaching safe houses in Tucson, northern Arizona, New Mexico, Kansas, Illinois and Wisconsin.
• The New Pueblo, a moving account of life in Tucson.
In describing The New Pueblo to our readers, I wrote, “It explains life as life itself rather than a metaphor of life. . . . The New Pueblo tells us about Tucson’s early years, how we progressed to the present and about our future.”
The New Pueblo was mountains of research. It was sending reporters to San Jose, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; Austin, Texas; and Phoenix. It was interviewing countless residents of Tucson, its leaders – elected or otherwise, discussing opportunities and formulating consensus about the future of our beloved “Old Pueblo.”
And, while the projects were important and something to behold and be proud of, it was the reporters, the people (the faces) of the Citizen that I ultimately remember.
Mark Kimble, Mr. Reliable; Chuck Bowden, he could make a subject and a predicate sing; Dale Walton, the managing editor for the ages; Judy Carlock, Miss Steady Hand; Carla McClain, if it was a medical issue, she had the cure.
Douglas Kreutz, a reporter’s reporter; Joel Rochon, he could take a drawing and bring it to life; P.K. Weis, the lens of his camera found the perfect image; Julie Szekely, she could dress you up and get it for you at the least cost.
Corky Simpson, who could take you from a screen pass to a bounce pass with a flick of the keyboard; Jeff Smith, talented, eccentric and way too out there for my taste; and the many other faces of the Citizen who made my job easier, my work pleasant and my life fulfilled.
Then, there is Tucson: majestic and magnificent. The memories: vivid, like yesterday.
The Tucson Mountains. The Valley. Some 320 days a year of crystal-clear, blue skies. The Dove of the Desert. Saguaros. The unrelenting heat of summer.
Skiing Mount Lemmon on a wintry Saturday morning and taking a swim in the backyard pool that afternoon. Brilliant sunsets, the most powerful anywhere. The desert, indescribable, fearful and fearless.
The Ball Busters, my Sunday morning golf group, which leads to the people – the faces – of Tucson:
Joel Valdez, a gentleman’s gentleman; Dick Moreno, fun-loving; Jim Click, wheel and deal, with a heart of gold; Warren Rustand, brilliant and savvy.
Mary Peachin, poised, glamorous and art to spare; Edith Auslander, compromising, negotiating, but always getting it right; and the many others who touched my life and influenced it forever.
I am saddened that the Citizen will be shuttered and a golden era of southern Arizona journalism will pass. I am saddened that Tucson is losing its friend, its intelligent choice.
To my friends in Tucson, I bid you a continued great adventure in the New Pueblo. To the Citizen, with tears in my eyes, I say “30.”
Gerald Garcia Jr. is president and CEO of AIMS Worldwide Inc., based in Fairfax, Va. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org