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New Rocky Mountain News Senior Editor Phill Casaus a Scripps Survivor

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This July 1 More Messages blog outlined some of the changes and challenges confronting E.W. Scripps, the Rocky Mountain News's corporate mama -- topics understood very well by Phill Casaus, the tab's new senior editor for local news. After all, Casaus once edited the Albuquerque Tribune, a Scripps paper that shut down in February after 86 years of operation -- many of them spent as part of a joint-operating agreement similar to the one that links the Rocky and the Denver Post.

Below, find Rocky managing editor Deb Goeken's memo announcing Casaus' impending arrival. It comes complete with information about his background (and the unusual spelling of his first name), plus a brief bio he penned and the text of his farewell piece in the Tribune, which is also linked above:

Everyone:

Phill Casaus, former editor of the Albuquerque Tribune, has been named Senior Editor for Local News at the Rocky. Phill's marching orders are to oversee the metro staff, working with city editor Eric Brown, deputy city/business editor Gil Rudowsky and the fine team of ACEs to produce a local report that is as hard-edged and creative and beautifully written as we can make it. Phill was editor of the Trib until Feb. 23, when the afternoon paper closed. He is a lifelong journalist who is passionate about the crucial role of a newspaper in its community and about the great gift of a finely-written story. He proved unequivocally at the Trib that you can do important journalism and create a visually stunning newspaper with a small staff and limited resources. He spent many years as a sportswriter for the Albuquerque Journal before jumping to the Trib. And he does spell his name with two Ls. I asked him why. "It's a long story, but let's just say I had an early start on typographical errors. On the other hand, the Journal had to write a correction one time because it spelled my name incorrectly in a story," he said. "That was fun." Here's Phill's very modest first-person bio. And after that, I've attached the column he wrote on the Trib's last day. He'll start here July 28. He is in the process of selling his house in New Mexico and moving with his family -- wife Kathy and kids Kait and Jack -- to Denver...

Deb

Here's the resume. The short version: Born in Albuquerque, raised for a time in southeast Arizona, came back to Albuquerque and -- for reasons that defy understanding -- was not banished.

Worked at the Bisbee (Ariz.) Review as a stringer as a kid, at the Albuquerque Journal and finally, thankfully, at the Trib for the past 11 years. The funny part: When I started at the Journal, I was 15 and getting coffee for the sports writers. On my last day at the Trib, I spent the morning making sure everyone at the wake had coffee. Life is funny that way.

Anyway, if there are questions, or if someone needs 10 minutes for rebuttal, let me know.

Phill Casaus: Don't cry for us, Albuquerque; it was worth it

By Phill Casaus
Saturday, February 23, 2008

Well, it's closing time, and before we turn out the lights and walk out of your life forever, I just wanted to say thanks, Albuquerque.

Helluva run, huh?

If you don't mind, I'd like it to end this way, my friend: With a handshake and a laugh and a hug; an abrazo that is more about the good than the sad.

The sad, we've already done in this office, anyway; no need to say more. In the past six months, we at The Trib cried about this day almost as hard as we worked to keep it from happening in the first place.

Believe me, every tear stung, particularly as the newspaper lurched between closure and sale and closure again. I don't know who's to blame anymore, but the last several months weren't fair, weren't right. Not for a staff who worked their guts out - and made the guy in this chair look a lot smarter than he is.

But enough of that. Today, let's just raise a glass - or raise a voice - to the good times.

I want to think of The Trib, even in its final edition, as a force for what is righteous in the community it serves. The community it loves. I hope you'll agree that, for 86 years, it lived up to our credo, one every journalist should memorize: "Give light and people will find their way."

If nothing else, I hope you'll remember The Trib as the best kind of neighbor and friend - one who could be depended upon when the stakes were highest and the needs greatest.

I've looked through our history together, and I'm struck by the way we intersected - unlikely upstarts in a harsh, sometimes unforgiving frontier. When The Trib arrived on the scene, first as Magee's Independent in 1922, ponies were more common than cars on Albuquerque's dirt streets. Now, our souped-up autos trudge along, at pony pace, along the city's byways.

I look through the microfiche, and I'm amazed how we grew, through wars and peacetime, through economic booms and a Depression and a few recessions. We wore fedoras and ducktails and beehives and, God help us, even mullets. We were quite a sight.

I laugh as I remember the characters we've seen and joys we found. In what other city could you find something like "Chevy on a Stick"? A one-man, falsetto-voiced promoter like the late Frank Crosby? A coach like Albuquerque High's Jim Hulsman or Highland's Bill Gentry? Politicians as tough and resilient as Clyde Tingley, Dennis Chavez, Pete Domenici and Bruce King? A basketball court like The Pit? A Sandia Peak and a bosque and a balloon fiesta?

For every one of your personalities, The Trib had a few of its own. Editors like Magee and Carmack and Baldwin and Gallagher. Reporters like Salazar and Steuver and Archuleta and Reed and Gutierrez Krueger and Stevens and Nelson.

On both sides, we've been blessed, Albuquerque.

I'm thinking, too, about how we sometimes agreed to disagree. And sometimes, we did it loudly - in the paper, on the phone, at the financial bottom line. But every fight taught us something, and hopefully, made both of us better.

I know this friendship, like all friendships, was altered over time - and I know those transformations might have led us to this day.

Some people say Albuquerque changed too much to keep two newspapers alive, and The Trib changed too little to be the one that survived.

I doubt I'll ever really know the answer for certain, certainly not today. But I do believe we - city and newspaper - never lost our affinity for one another. The Trib was Albuquerque, and Albuquerque was The Trib. I'll believe that forever.

I'll believe this, too: We'll miss being part of your life, mostly because it's so interesting. So distinct. So full of unique stories and possibilities that you can't find in Tucson or Tuscaloosa, or New York or L.A., either.

I hope you never lose sight of that, Albuquerque; never lose the personality that makes you so special - and so much fun to be around.

So, as we go our separate ways, please know that we're grateful for the time we've had together.

You made it all worthwhile.

Casaus, an Albuquerque native, was editor of The Trib for 1,746 days.

The decision by the folks at the Rocky to relocate Casaus to Denver flies in the face of speculation that the paper is not long for this world, at least in its present form. For his sake, and the sake of Denver newspaper readers in general, let's hope that his recent experiences in Albuquerque won't be repeated here anytime soon. -- Michael Roberts


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