What happened to John Rebchook?

During the year, I’ll be asking Denver journalists what they’ve been up to since leaving the Rocky or The Post…-and what they think of the state of Colorado journalism these days.

I previously queried former Denver Post columnists Jim Spencer and Bob Ewegen, among others.

John Rebchook covered real estate and other topics at the Rocky Mountain News from 1983 until the newspaper closed in February 2009. “I believe I have the dubious distinction of having covered business topics longer than any other journalist in Denver’s history,” John emailed me. “(Of course, it is inevitable now that I’ve said that, someone will prove me wrong.)”

Here’s what John has to say (via an email) about 1) his current situation and 2) the state of Colorado journalism:

1. After the Rocky closed, I was approached by Peter Lansing, head of Universal Lending, one of the largest privately held mortgage banking companies in Denver. I had known Peter for about 25 years and had a great deal of respect for him. During the go-go days of mortgage financing, Universal Lending stayed away from the toxic loan products, such as Option ARMS and other subprime mortgages. He left a lot of money on the table, but he refused to sell mortgages that he decided were poison for consumers. By virtue of this, his company survived and prospered, when many others imploded.

In the waning days of the Rocky, Peter said he would like to talk to me about career choices, if the paper closed. He said he enjoys giving advice, and has a knack for it.  After the Rocky was shut, we met for lunch one rainy, cold day last spring. Peter said he would like to sponsor me in some fashion, but he didn’t know how or in exactly what form. He said there are a lot of opinion pieces on real estate on the Web, but virtually no reporting. I asked Peter if we went forward on this, would I be able to speak to his competitors. “I insist on it,” he said. He said he did not want to control or influence the editorial content. I, of course, could quote him, from time to time as I did at the Rocky, when appropriate. For him, it would be a type of passive marketing to get his company’s name in front of real estate professionals and consumers.  About eight months ago, InsideRealEstateNews.com  was born.  Land Title Guarantee also joined as a sponsor. I’ve enjoyed writing the blog a great deal. It keeps me in touch with what is happening in the real estate world, and gives me more freedom to choose my own topics than I had at the Rocky. I also have enjoyed learning about the technical aspects of blogging. I create my own graphics, such as tables; take and post my own photographs; and shoot and post my own videos. My blog has been growing by leaps and bounds. I make a fraction of what I made at the Rocky, however, and economically it can only continue in this form if I get more sponsors and/or advertising. I’m working on both of those options. Hopefully, I will be able to make a decent living writing my blog. I also have completed a number of freelance writing and editing assignments. I am a total free agent. I even appeared on a commercial for Bass Pro, in which I posed as an instructor for a bird-watching class!

2. Without a doubt, I think Denver would be better off with two competitive, daily newspapers. It certainly keeps reporters on their toes when they know that a reporter at the rival paper is competing against them. Competition is good. That said, it is quite amazing that two papers of the same size survived as long as they did, given the economic realities of everything from Craig’s List, declining readership among young people, and all of the news available on the Web. One of the ironies of losing my job at the Rocky is that I now have more time to read the Denver Post and the Wall Street Journal. I think the Post has done an admirable job of covering the news since the Rocky closed. Many of my former colleagues relish finding the occasional bad lede to poke fun at, but the truth is that every reporter from time to time wrote ledes that were stinkers. I hated looking at my stories after I wrote them, at the Rocky, because I knew I would find something I would change, with the pressure of the deadline behind me. I certainly thought all of the reporters at the Post were worthy competitors when I was at the Rocky, and they are still excellent journalists and reporters. When I was at the Rocky, I always looked at the Post long before the sun rose, to see if I had been beaten on a story. Too many days I would go to work in a dark mood because my butt had been kicked. I would also say that when I traveled around the country, I would always look at the local papers. Outside of a few major cities, I never found papers that I thought were as good as the Denver Post or the Rocky Mountain News for local and business coverage. And I thought the business sections of both papers put to shame the business sections of much bigger papers. For example, when I would visit my family in suburban Chicago, where I grew up, I always thought that the business sections at either of the Denver papers were far superior to the business section of the Chicago Tribune. I also think that people tend to expect too much from an individual paper.  Years ago, I was talking to a guy who owned a real estate company in Denver. He had been invited to a focus group of readers at the Rocky to see what they wanted in a paper. Basically, they said they wanted everything. But he felt like they were deluding themselves. Were they really going to read a 20-inch story about Senegal or a 40-inch story about a new Volvo factory in Sweden? The real estate owner each day read Denver dailies, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. Only then, did he think that he received a good overview of what was going on. He felt it was incumbent upon the reader to broaden his or his perspective by going to a wide variety of publications. He did not think any single newspaper could provide “one-stop reading” to fulfill all of your news needs. Now that the Denver Post has won the newspaper war here, I’ve thought back to that conversation often. I think it is as true now as it was back in the day.



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