Citizen Staff Report
THE FINAL EDITION
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.
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 was part of something very important.
Many years later, I got my first newspaper job at the Citizen.
I remember the night Old Tucson burned 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, keyboards 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 residents.
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