I had convinced myself, based on nothing except the rip tide that’s pulling political reporters out of Colorado, that The Durango Herald wouldn’t replace its Denver correspondent, Joe Hanel, who left in May after rising to become one best political journalists in the state.
But I was wrong. The Herald has hired Peter Marcus, who left The Colorado StatesmanFriday, to replace
Hanel as its Denver Correspondent. Asked what he’ll be covering, Marcus said via email:
Marcus: “As much as I’d love to be working in Durango — that town is so amazing — I’ll actually be stationed out of the Capitol, holding down the bureau. It’s really critical that southwest Colorado have a link to the happenings in Denver. They don’t get Colorado news down there. The broadcasts are out of Albuquerque, but the people don’t relate to New Mexico. They’re Coloradans. So, it’s crucial that they have a link to the news and happenings coming out of Denver, because the decisions that happen in the Mile High City greatly impact their lives, and they should be able to have a say in what’s going on. During the legislative session, I’ll be mostly covering the legislature for the Herald. More immediately, I’m going to be jumping right into campaign season. It’s not going to be much of a jump for me. That’s been part of my beat at The Statesman. But I’ll also take a close look at the courts and the state boards — especially mining, water and oil and gas — because actions by those authorities are of great importance to our readership.”
I asked Marcus, who starts at the Heraldtoday, about the journalism road that led him to his new job:
Marcus: “It was a bit sad saying goodbye to the Statesman on Friday. That paper really came through for me at a clutch time, when I was seriously considering getting out of journalism. I was the assistant editor over at the Denver Daily News, it was around July 2011, and the paper just suddenly shut down. It literally just shut down in a second. I was out interviewing a Denver city employee for an investigation I was working on, and my phone went off, and it was a text from my editor saying, “Don’t worry about coming back to the office, the paper just folded.” It was shocking, to say the least.
After that, I was sort of losing faith in the industry a little bit. I still had the bug for journalism, but there just weren’t too many options available to me at that time. That’s when I started freelancing for The Statesman. Jody Strogoff, the editor, she saw something in me and allowed me to take on a few assignments for her. I had been covering the statehouse for the Denver Daily News, but it certainly wasn’t my primary beat, so Jody sort of took a risk on me. I started covering the reapportionment hearings at the time. That was a pretty big deal to The Statesman, given the paper’s legislative focus. Reapportionment can be a tough subject to just sort of dive into, but I got it done, and I think Jody started feeling a bit more comfortable. Soon I was a staff writer for the paper, primarily focused on the state legislature.
Where it all got started for me was at the Longmont Times-Call. I was an intern there for a while in 2005 right after graduating from Ithaca College where I majored in journalism. I sort of just packed up my car in New York and moved to Colorado. I had a tight crew of friends moving out here, but I didn’t have a job or anything like that. But then I landed the Times-Call gig and that’s where I really got addicted to this thing. It’s funny, I ran into Trevor Hughes at the Capitol the other day. Trevor was at the Times-Call when I was there. He now works for USA Today. Anyway, Trevor took me out on my first breaking news assignment. It was a bank robbery in Longmont. When I saw him, it all came back to me. I guess some of us just can’t say goodbye to being newsmen.”
I also asked Marcus how it felt to be replacing the widely respected Joe Hanel.
Marcus: I can’t begin to explain to you how big of a deal it is that I’m replacing Hanel. His legacy over at the Capitol could possibly be eternal. Hanel held down the Herald’s bureau position with pride, class and professionalism. He really set the bar. As I’ve been telling people that I’m moving over to the Herald, their responses have usually been, ‘Wow, those are some big shoes to fill.’ Indeed. If I come anywhere close to filling Joe’s shoes, I’ll feel like I have done my job. He gave me some good advice after I told him I got the gig. Hanel goes, ‘Just don’t fuck it up.’
I told Marcus that his fans at The Statesman will undoubtedly miss him. Here’s his response:
Marcus: I’m going to miss The Statesman very much. Beyond just allowing me to stay in the game so that I could move on to other opportunities, it’s been a real home for me. The stories are definitely on the long side, and they’re catered for the truly wonky political crowd. But there was something really fantastic about being able to delve into subjects with such complexity and detail. The Statesman is a true institution in the Colorado political world, and it was an honor to represent them over the past few years. They haven’t filled my old position yet, but I understand that there have been some interested and qualified candidates expressing interest.