One of the funniest things that ever happened to me was when I met the Dalai Lama.
After the press conference he walked straight over to me, pinched both cheeks and asked me in a whisper, “Are you from Mexico?”
I responded, “NO, I’m from Arizona.” He then whispered something more in my ear.
As I looked around I noticed every camera in the room had turned on me. I made every newscast, and my family in Casa Grande even saw it.
When a reporter pulled me aside and said, “Oh my God, you must be blessed. What did the Dalai Lama say to you?”
I responded, “He said I was the darkest Mexican he ever saw.”
It’s odd for the “highlights” of my career to be marked by tragedies. Major news events on deadline put a journalist to the test, the times you look back on and marvel at how so much got done in so little time and was done well. I can see exactly what I was doing at work when the first shuttle blew up, when the tragedy in Bhopal was revealed, when students were killed at Columbine, when we went to war in Iraq and, of course, on Sept. 11, 2001. I remember so clearly saying, “Paul, did you see that (Associated Press) bulletin that a plane flew into the World Trade Center?”
Despite 24-plus years of cynicism and deadline pressure for nearly every working hour of every working day, I’m going to miss the whole thing.
Newsrooms are odd places. They are places where daily discussions — of grammar and design, politics and current events — involve everyone within earshot and we never agree.
Journalists are odd creatures, many overflowing with sarcasm, cynicism and vitriol. I love them!
There is no way to condense 13 years into a few quips and memories. So, on a grand scale, the Citizen has been about family – literally and figuratively.
I have worked in the same room as my husband, Mike, for all of my 13 years here, though not always at the same time. (There were rumors, for a while, that we were the same person). Both our children were born while we worked here, and with no actual family in town, it was coworkers who came through when our first came three weeks early.
Catherine, said oldest child, grew up in this newsroom. She was here for at least a couple of hours every day until she started preschool. The library ladies were her grandmas, the newsroom staff her aunts and uncles.
She even spent New Year’s Eve 1999 – at the tender age of 5 1/2 months – in the newsroom, because we both had to work in case Y2K shut down the world.
It didn’t. But she has a commemorative T-shirt to prove she was there.
This newsroom, since I arrived here in June of 2006, has always had great, great people. They’re pros; and they have always put the needs of the readers first. Tucson will be poorer for the newspaper’s folding because the loss of all that talent in one place.
My first job over 40 years ago was as a paperboy for the Tucson Citizen. I had a route that ran from First Street to 10th Street between Tucson Boulevard and Country Club.
In 1967 I got a job as a cub reporter for the Citizen and I ended up with the Pima County Board of Supervisors as part of my “beat.”
Covering Pima County back before the days of open meeting laws was a hoot. The three county supervisors would meet before the official meeting and decide the agenda. The guys let me in the room, but did not let my female counterpart from the Star inside. Being an afternoon paper with a deadline for the home delivery edition of noon, I’d often file my story about what the supervisors decided before the meeting was over, so the Citizen could beat the Star.
I got to experience the last days of the old-style newsroom. We used manual typewriters, and if the City Desk didn’t like our copy, they’d wad it up and throw it back across the newsroom. The older reporters were grizzled guys with bottles of whiskey in their desk drawers. Nothing like the antiseptic cubicle newsrooms of today with glowing computer screens.
I didn’t last long at the Citizen after the night a military jet crashed into a supermarket on South Alvernon. In the midst of that chaos, I failed to get the names of a bunch of Air Force colonels who showed up the next day to inspect the smoking ruins who didn’t have their names on their jump suits, and Nellis Air Force Base (from whence they came) wouldn’t give up their names. So the paper had to run a picture with “5 unidentified colonels.” Officially I was told I “lacked a proper sense of immediacy.” So, off to law school I went to become a lawyer, a profession where immediacy is not a virtue.
Former staff member
In 2005, my brother, Dontia, was in his early 20s playing varsity tennis for San Diego State University, where he was set to graduate with a degree in psychology. Devastating news came during the late evening hours on Sept. 23: Dontia had been in a vehicle wreck that day and had passed. I left immediately for California. My family was not fully financially prepared for his passing and in speaking with my editor that week about requesting additional time off I told her about the difficulties my family was experiencing. That day, she informed the Tucson Citizen staff about the situation and the staff began collecting funds to help with the funeral expenses. Days later, the staff sent the funds to my parents. I have seen the Citizen staff do this with numerous others — whether it was for a newborn child or a devastating event. These are testimonies of what the Tucson Citizen family represent.
La Monica Everett-Haynes
Former staff member
I’ve been amazingly fortunate that for the past 32 years I’ve been paid to read and write for a living while working at the Tucson Citizen.
For many years, on the Citizen’s dime, I was able to travel across America, and once to Japan, to cover sporting events. It was a pretty good gig.
But the coolest time was from 1991 to 1994 when I did my first stint on the copy desk. I had the power, as the late man on my shift, to stop the presses for breaking news stories – with the approval of the managing editor, of course.
With a touch of a button on my phone, I had a direct connection to the pressroom, and the thundering machines would come to a halt while we remade the paper.
I was always tempted to do a Humphrey Bogart impression (he played an editor in “Deadline U.S.A.”) when I shouted out “Stop the presses,” but it would have been lost over the roar.
One of the more amazing moments I experienced at the Citizen was being with the Tucson-based science team for the Phoenix Mars Lander mission when the spacecraft safely settled on the planet’s surface May 25, 2008.
The craft faced a danger-filled “seven minutes of terror” as it used the Martian atmosphere, a parachute and 12 descent thrusters to slow from 12,500 mph to a soft landing to end its 10-month, 422-million mile journey.
The 400 people packing the Tucson Science Operations Center waiting for confirmation of safe landing erupted in joy as the Lander’s first images from the Martian surface were shown on large screen monitors. The “live” images took 15 minutes to travel from Mars to Earth.
I was about 5 when my oldest brother started delivering papers for the Citizen. Every afternoon, I helped him fold them and wrap a rubber band around them. I felt proud, as though I were part of something very important.
Many years later, I got my first newspaper job at the Citizen.
I remember the night Old Tucson burnt down. I went to the newsroom about 7 p.m., thinking a few old-timers would be there – in those days, the newsroom starting lighting up about 3 a.m. to put out the afternoon paper. At 7 at night, everyone should be home and exhausted, gearing up for the next day.
But the newsroom was hopping, keyboads going at a rapid pace, phones pressed to reporters’ ears. The sense of loss was palpable as we all worked to get the story about the blaze.
But we also wanted a story — stories, really — that talked about what the old movie set meant to Tucson’s economy, Tucson’s tourism, Tucson’s citizens.
We all worked late into the night and got those stories. We wrote with compassion, knowledge and precision.
We all were part of something very important.
Former staff member
When I arrived at the Tucson Citizen’s police press room for my first shift in December 1999, I carefully inched toward the one-room office and opened the door just enough to peek inside. I was visibly nervous; a big fish at the college paper, I was suddenly a nobody with a notepad, thrown into an internship at a professional news operation.
“Are you Dave Teibel?” I asked, my voice quivering.
The man put down a newspaper and adjusted his Coke-bottle glasses to get a closer look at me. “I am,” he curtly replied.
Knowing a bit about Teibel’s storied career in Tucson, I said “Well, it’s truly an honor to meet you, sir.”
I expected to hear “Nice to meet you, too.” That’s what normal people say.
Instead, he groaned and put his feet on the desk, opened his newspaper and proudly muttered, “Yes … yes it is.”
That brief conversation scared me half to death and I nearly quit on the spot. But then, somehow, we began to click.
Over the next three years, this wonderful man – part pit bull, part teddy bear – helped craft the person I’ve become today. He did the same for dozens of rookies before and after me.
Former staff member
One top memory: Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea leading Team USA to a gold medal in softball at the 2004 Olympic Games in Greece. His team dominated, not that it was a surprise in going 9-0 and outscoring opponents 51-1. What struck me, though, was his humility, poise and pride in the journey. It came just five weeks after his then-wife, Sue, passed away from a brain aneurysm while on the pre-Games tour.
I remember him in the dugout, hand on chin, taking in the team celebration on the field. Heartfelt and memorable.
“I thanked them all for the greatest moment of my life,” he said at the time. “I love this team.”
And, through it all, he didn’t get a medal. Coaches don’t get medals.
“That’s not what this is about,” he said.
Nothing in my 21 years at the Citizen has been personally more life changing than covering the Tucson International Mariachi Conference.
My first encounter with the conference showed me that this was a world-class tradition with instrumentalists and singers to rival the best orchestras and opera companies in the country. But in time I realized that I was watching history unfold before my eyes as Mexican Americans recast their self-image through their culture and set sail toward a future of higher education and pride in their personal and collective accomplishments.
What seemed at first concerts and workshops became the seeds of the transformation of a people, and it was my good fortune to be there to write about that historical pivot point as it was unfolding.
I’ll miss all the cursing and yelling.
Before becoming a foul-mouthed vulgarian journalist, I was a repressed foul-mouthed vulgarian hospital executive (executive being a relative term) who had to do all his cursing outside the staid confines of the hospital and the inpatient admissions office.
Dilbertian cubicle life is hushed and chaste. Mere hells and damns can elicit gasps from the cubists and frantic calls to HR and personal injury attorneys.
Raising your voice to a fellow employee was almost always followed by a trip to the HR office and mandatory anger management training.
But not in a newsroom. Here we let the expletives fly. Yelling at co-workers and editors is de rigueur.
My first day here, the border reporter yelled at the city editor. The photo editor yelled at the sports editor and the o\n\ned page designer yelled at the photo editor (a lot of people yell at the photo editor, and vice versa). A general assignment reporter yelled at everybody.
I thought to myself, “I’m home.”
I dread returning to the monk’s life of the grownup corporate world. Here’s hoping another newsroom needs a fat bastard editor who can say f*** you with the best of ‘em.
MARK B. EVANS
Assistant city editor
I did not choose a career as a journalist to be a government watchdog, expose corruption or to influence people. I became a journalist to make money while writing the Great American Novel. And along the path of becoming the next Jack Kerouac, I was led to a newsroom described by an editor friend of mine as a place “similar to the island of misfit toys.”
It was a melting pot of tree huggers, gun-lovers, cowboys and city slickers, vegetarians, meat eaters, animal lovers, beer drinkers, rock and rollers and hip hoppers.
What I remember most about those 10 years in the dusty and dark newsroom at Park and Irvington was the enjoyment of working in a place and having a career where you had access to inside information (off the record), met famous people (Tiger Woods), and had the rush of chasing breaking news.
There was never a dull moment in the Citizen newsroom. Everyday was different and as reporters our desire for knowledge was never-ending. I am a better person, a better public servant, and thanks to the Tucson Citizen I am a man who knows a little about a lot rather than a lot about one thing.
More importantly, working on “the island of misfit toys” taught me tolerance and open-mindedness to those who are different than I. Now if I could just finish that novel…
Former staff member
Even on this doomsday I feel truly blessed to have worked in the Tucson Citizen newsroom.
I have spent over five years in this newsroom, and it has not only improved me as a photographer and a news person, but it has truly fostered my appreciation for knowledge.
I must give credit to my unforgettable mentor P.K. Weis. He reinvigorated my love of photography. And when I became a legitimate photographer, he taught me how to be a better photographer and the importance of connecting with all the people I photograph.
He instilled a confidence in me.
For Mr. Weis and the Tucson Citizen, I am more than grateful. I am a better person.
Drug trafficking was really starting to heat up along the Arizona border in the early ’90s. I spent a lot of time with the U.S. Border Patrol.
I remember walking through the brush with two agents on a moonless night and being forbidden from using my electronic flash to take pictures since we were being watching by drug runners. I slept in the back of a beat-up Border Patrol truck for four hours while agents tracked drug-runners by moonlight – no headlights or tail lights.
I had the privilege of covering the Arizona Wildcat football and basketball teams at home and on the road for six years.
My first NCAA tournament trip was to Denver in 1989. I walked into the Associated Press darkroom and said that I needed film processing services. The AP photographer running the lab, an intimidating 6-foot-7-inch bearded fellow, stood over me and yelled at me for not calling ahead and following procedures. I was speechless. Another wire service photographer put his arm around me and quietly pulled me out of the room. He helped smooth things over so I could process film.
During this trip, I was rooming with columnist Corky Simpson. I finished transmitting photos at 3 a.m. following the game (it took 30 minutes to transmit each photo in those days) and quietly snuck into the hotel room to get some sleep. At 6 a.m., the drapes were thrust open to daylight. I bolted up from bed to Corky proudly proclaiming that he was going out running. I knew it was going to be a long, sleepless tournament.
I worked some strange hours to cover for P.K. Weis, the photo editor, when the Citizen was a true afternoon daily.
I woke up at 2:30 a.m. each day one week to make it to work at 4 a.m. to cover P.K.’s shift. Managing editor Dale Walton strolled into the newsroom around 4:30 a.m., looking dapper with coat and tie and ready to tackle the news day. By the news meeting at 5:30 a.m., the tie was loosened and he looked completely disheveled and exhausted.
It was then I knew I never wanted to be a managing editor.
The same day, I fell asleep on the shoulder of the sports editor during the afternoon meeting.
Former staff member
In 1996 our current interim publisher, then business editor, Jennifer Boice hired me right out of journalism school.
I said, “Are you sure you want to hire a single mom with three kids?” I’m glad she did.
Over the past dozen years not only have my children grown up – but I have as well.
I’ve had the opportunity to reach out and talk to people I normally would not have had access to including several political figures and entertainment icons such as Jay Leno, Roseanne Barr, Phyllis Diller and Don Rickles.
The interview that sticks in my mind is when Sen. John McCain made me sick. This is not a political comment.
About four years ago he came to the Citizen and I interviewed him. He had a horrible head cold. He sneezed into his hand and then shook mine. It was a bit sticky. A few days later I was sick. Thanks, senator!
Assistant city editor
I was a huge baseball fan as a kid. I’d watch any game I could on TV, hardly missed a Baseball Tonight on ESPN, and read every copy of the Star’s or Citizen’s sports section that I got my hands on.
So imagine my excitement, when as a young adult and covering sports for the Tucson Citizen, I had the opportunity to interview one of my childhood heroes in the clubhouse after a Diamondbacks spring training game. We’re talking someone whose poster used to hang on my wall as kid – how exciting, right?
The entire time I talked with him he had one foot propped up on a bench, a cigarette in one hand, a beer in the other, and his eyes glued to a golf tournament on the clubhouse TV. He never even once looked over at me during the interview. Talk about having your bubble popped.
In 2005, I was sent out to Desert Diamond to cover the weigh-in for the next night’s fight between Demetrius Hopkins and Tucson’s Nito Bravo.
Hopkins was the nephew of Bernard Hopkins, who at 40 was the oldest man to ever hold the Middleweight Championship in boxing and who had defended his title, a world record, 20 times.
The publicist asked me if I wanted to talk to Bernard Hopkins and I said yes, obviously.
So the publicist walked me to the bar where Bernard was sitting and told him who I was. As he was talking to Bernard, I turned around and looked – there was a long line of boxing fans going back out the door – all waiting to talk to and get an autograph from Bernard Hopkins.
Bernard Hopkins told me to sit down with him at the bar so I could interview him. He talked to me for over half an hour – about everything from his nephew, to his own career, to the weather and even the big pancakes the casino served him for breakfast.
Meanwhile, I had a large and growing line of inpatient boxing fans – most of whom were drinking. If there wasn’t a famous boxer sitting next to me – I think I might have needed a bodyguard. (On a side note, the next night, at the fight, I got to interview Oscar de la Hoya too.)
My four underpaid, overworked years at the Tucson Citizen were, without doubt, among the most joyful of my career. The Citizen taught me how to report, how to write, and to honor the classic Finley Peter Dunn mandate to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
I last lived and worked here in 1985, so the smaller city I knew and the larger newspaper I loved have been gone for a while (though the beer garden at the Shanty is still strangely, wonderfully unchanged after 24 years). The Citizen of that era honored good writing more than most newspapers, thanks in large part to the influence of Dick Vonier. We took on ambitious stories, including an epic series examining the flood of Central American refugees in the ’80s that made Tucson a center for the Sanctuary Movement, and an investigation of flaws in a major child abduction and murder case. For the latter, I was personally gratified to be labeled “Inspector Closeau” by a sputtering County Attorney Steve Neely, who was angered by our findings.
The paper had some memorable foibles. One was the paper’s fondness for publishing animal tales on the front page, a proclivity I once demonstrated by stapling a year’s worth of such stories together end to end, producing a paper chain of doggy heroes and record-breaking snakes and cats that could carry a tune that ran from the break room bulletin board some 39 feet into the hallway. In typical Citizen fashion, another reporter was assigned to write a story about my little project (which I suppose was better than canning me).
The story about animal stories ran, naturally, on the front page.
Former staff member
There was always something about the Citizen, something that set us apart.
What it always came down to was a staff that cared – cared about Tucson, cared about each other and cared about doing the best job possible, even as resources dwindled to nothing.
We were the scrappy underdog (hate that phrase), frequently beating the competition on breaking news and in sheer writing talent.
More importantly, we had heart. We always wanted to do our best, to be the best.
And we had fun. When I was moved to the “Big House” after working in our downtown office for years, I was assigned a desk in what had to be the most fun corner in the universe.
I was surrounded by irreverent, brilliant, funny and sometimes a bit dysfunctional folks. We pulled pranks. We got in trouble. Once we got so rowdy, Art Rotstein of the Associated Press tape recorded us. We were appalled at our own behavior.
But we did the best journalism of our lives.
It’s hard to imagine Tucson without the Tucson Citizen.
But life will go on. It always does. News will happen. I just hope someone who cares as much as we did is there to cover it.
Being able to go to the State of the State address with Mark Kimble has always been one of my favorite memories of working at the Citizen. I sat with legislators, mayors and the governor just feet away from me. I will always remember seeing the mayor of Phoenix stick his cell phone in his sock. I felt like a kid in a candy store. This was the culmination of my government classes in public education.
Later, on that same trip I found out how knowledgeable he was not just about news but our state and its history in general. Upon buying lunch at McDonald’s (Mark is also a health nut), we discussed Fife Symington’s new career path in the food industry. Mark then revealed to me that during his childhood Mr. Symington saved some kid from drowning. Later, when Fife got indicted and convicted this kid came back into his life and rescued him by granting him a presidential pardon. The kid’s name was William Jefferson Clinton. So if it wasn’t for Symington, Clinton would be dead by now.
That day was one of the days that I learned the most in any job and one more thing that will be with me for the rest of my life, thanks to the Citizen and thanks to Mark.
In this world of celebrity overload, we in the journalism business in Tucson don’t get that many opportunities to interview celebs, let alone have them admit to something publicly that had previously remained buried in their past.
But when I interviewed ABC sportscaster Al Michaels in 1977, that’s exactly what happened.
Some background: Michaels was sports editor of The State Press, the student paper at Arizona State University, in 1965. While there he perpetrated a hoax on The Arizona Republic’s sports staff by inventing a fictitious athlete from Fredonia High School in northern Arizona. Michaels and his school buddy George Allen concocted baseball star Clint Romas, then kept embellishing a legendary career for him through calls to the Republic sports desk. As long as the Republic kept printing the stats and linescores, they would keep calling in with ever-more outrageous feats by Romas.
The hoax fell apart when the Republic finally decided to call Fredonia to do a story on Romas and found out he didn’t exist. Just who had conned the Republic remained a mystery, though – at least until Michaels admitted it to me in the interview and I published his account.
How did I know about the hoax and to ask Michaels about it? Let’s just say a reporter never reveals his sources.
The best part of this for me was hearing Michaels’ hearty laugh when first hearing Clint Romas’ name, and then his regaling me with some of the juicier facts behind the hoax. Try getting that from a celebrity today.
The first day of my first story, then-city editor Jim Wyckoff told me to go to the scene, every time. Do an interview over the telephone, he warned, and you’ll miss the bullet hole in the window, or the refrigerator magnet, or the family photo that could provide little nuggets of insight. If you want to chronicle human moments, he advised, be there to see the tears and anger and pain and beauty.
I learned about the power of words to nudge and inspire.
I did piece on a crime victim who needed surgery to save her eyesight. Readers responded with donations to provide the medical care her insurance company wouldn’t.
In that moment of a community pulling together, any sense of victory was tempered by sobriety. What I wrote had the power to move people, to influence policy, to change lives.
I felt awe, then humility, that people trust me to tell their stories and to be an accurate filter of their experience.
Former staff member
Black Friday is my favorite shopping day of the year. I love the deals, the chaos and getting home at noon with all my Christmas and birthday shopping done. I hate getting up before dawn, but justify it with the thought that I’ll get to take a long afternoon nap.
For Black Friday 2007, I agreed to be the reporter out covering the chaos. It meant that I would have to be up at 3 a.m., and also meant dragging along my 14-month-old foster child, Bamm Bamm. I thought he would sleep in the stroller the whole time.
He ended up staying awake for most of the trip, but managed to be the easiest part of completing the story. After our first stop to interview the folks in line at Mervyn’s I got back into my truck to head to Circuit City.
My truck wouldn’t start. I had four stores to hit in less than two hours and I had a dead battery. At each store photographer Xavier Gallegos had to jump my battery. When it came time to file my story, I did it while sitting in my truck in the Tucson Citizen parking lot typing on my laptop with my engine running and my little boy finally sleeping.
Former staff member
On a whim, after spending the 1948 Fourth of July weekend in Tucson, I sought and landed my first post-Princeton job at the Citizen. Elated, I found my desk in the seven-reporter newsroom, sat down, and admitted: “I don’t know how to type.” To which the veteran newsman next to me offered wise counsel: “Fake it.”
I managed to hunt-and-peck my way through four enjoyable stints at the state’s oldest paper for a total of 20 years. Closing my initial stay as acting sports editor, I joined the FBI in 1951, only to return a year later as city editor, 1952-55. Alcoholism slowly had a grip on me, so I wandered far and often until the Citizen gave me another chance as day police reporter (1962-64).
My stories were generally good, my behavior wasn’t, so I disappeared again until finding recovery in AA (9/24/69). By 1971, I was welcomed home for one last fling – as political writer, columnist and editorial page editor – until 1983. Thanks for the memories.
ASA “ACE” BUSHNELL
Former staff member