Why I’m returning to journalism

It’s good to be back.

For more than a decade I was a reporter for twice-weekly Montana newspapers in Glendive and Lewistown. Before that, I was regularly contributing to one publication or another. Journalism consumed me.

Looking back, it was a no-brainer for me to pursue this career path. I’d always had a passion for writing and an interest in meeting people from all walks of life – I carried a notebook and pen with me wherever I went – so it came as no surprise when my first reporting job with the University of Louisville’s college newspaper fit so naturally. Journalism became my direction: I transferred to the University of Kentucky, where there was a journalism school, and I moved forward in the direction of my dreams.

But by the summer of 2020, having covered about every beat imaginable for the Lewistown News-Argus, and after stepping up again and again to overcome staff shortages, burn-out started to deplete me. The coronavirus pandemic emerged and I worked from home for a month. In that time the deadly virus took the life of my grandfather. When I returned to the office I felt spent.

That same day, the director of Lewistown’s Chamber of Commerce called. She told me a position was vacant, and I took it, looking for a change, a break. Perhaps some day I could rejuvenate my interest in the field that had once completely captivated me.

Now, I’ve returned to journalism as editor of the Boulder Monitor, a decision that took time, consideration and a little persuasion. Keith Hammonds, the Monitor’s publisher, shared with me the paper’s mission — to hold power to account by “demanding transparency, investigating wrongdoing and revealing how what’s broken could be fixed” — and the philosophy behind solutions-based journalism. I was reminded that journalism isn’t just a job – it’s a responsibility. The conversation was refreshing and intoxicating. It inspired me to get back into the ring. 

I’m returning to journalism because I still very much believe in its importance, especially when it comes to community news. We are all here to serve the same purpose: to help the place we love succeed. That’s what the Monitor’s mission is all about, and it’s what I hope to help accomplish during my time here. Joseph Pulitzer perhaps said it best: “The newspaper that is true to its highest mission will concern itself with the things that ought to happen tomorrow, or next month, or next year, and will seek to make what ought to become to pass.”

Celebrating with Kari at Glendive’s Montana Newspaper Association Awards Ceremony June 18

In retrospect, this was obvious well before my conversation with Keith. I found myself consulting regularly with friends still in the field, brainstorming freelance stories, watching (and blogging about) journalism-related films and coming up with a variety of journalism-related projects with colleagues. I was a repressed news junkie.

All these extracurricular activities got me wondering: why am I not working in journalism again?

Sometimes you just need a change of scenery, and an opportunity to pursue your career of choice in a place that interests you. As David McCumber, former editor of the Montana Standard said, “there’s no end to great stories in a place I want to live.”

For me, Boulder is that place. My wife and I have been coming here for years, soaking in the hot springs and seeking solace in the Free Enterprise radon room. We’d dined at the River and the Elkhorn Bistro and pictured ourselves living here. 

I look at this opportunity as a long-term venture, and I look forward to getting to know all of you. I’m eager to become part of this community and to celebrate it with you. I don’t expect this to happen right away, but with each week, with each publication, it is my desire to learn more about you and your community, and to share a truthful image of Jefferson County. 

Getting started has had its difficulties. I’m a little rusty, and I’m a first-time editor in unfamiliar territory. Mistakes have been made, and I appreciate hearing from the community when they occur. Thanks for understanding that “I’m new here” and that I’ll work hard to make sure I get it right next time. 

There’s a lot to take in, and a lot of education required. The task of determining the news and informing the public won’t be easy, but it’s a challenge I embrace and one I’m honored to take on with Keith, the Monitor’s hard-working news staff and you, the readers of Jefferson County. I look forward to hearing from each and every one of you.

(as published in the July 6 Boulder Monitor)

About CharliesTrail

Originally from Indianapolis, Denison is a writer and musician who has picked up culture and influences from eccentrics all over the U.S. and overseas. He is a University of Kentucky Journalism School grad and an award-winning Montana journalist. Through the years he's had work published by "Chicken Soup From the Soul," DVD Netflix, Montana Quarterly Magazine, NUVO and Americana Highways. He has a solo album, "Whispers of the Lonely," and continues to chip away at his first novel. Currently Denison is the editor of The Boulder Monitor in Boulder, Montana, where he lives with his wife.
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2 Responses to Why I’m returning to journalism

  1. Stuart Davidson says:

    Excited for you Charlie! Keep up the great work! Continue to fill that notebook as you have for so many years. Look forward to catching up someday when our paths cross and sharing more life stories!

  2. Judy Thompson says:

    Good luck to you Charlie,,,,,I’m glad you are back into journalism and the residents of Jefferson County will be too!!
    If you need anyone to check your spelling, look me up.
    Best of life to you and Lari!!!

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