An interview with Tim Hoover, who left The Denver Post Friday

After a six-year run at The Denver Post, as a reporter and editorial writer, Tim Hoover left the newspaper Friday to be Communications Director for the Fiscal Policy Institute. It’s a certainty that Hoover’s fair-and-accurate writing will be missed by reasonable progressives and conservatives alike.

This week, Hoover answered a few questions via email.

How long were you at The Post? And at previous journo jobs? How long were you in journalism?

Hoover: “I was at the Post just short of six years, having started in January of 2008. I worked at The Kansas City Star for seven years as a statehouse reporter. Before that, I worked at the Tulsa World and The McAllen (Texas) Monitor. All told, I was a professional journalist for 20 years. My experience does go back further, though. I was an intern at The Albuquerque Tribune (which is how I know Lynn Bartels from 20-something years ago), an intern at The Daily Oklahoman and an intern for the Oklahoma Capitol News Bureau. I was also once a stringer [freelance writer] for The New York Times. And, of course, I worked at my beloved school paper, The Oklahoma Daily, at the University of Oklahoma, where I was a reporter and eventually the editor.”

Why would you leave such a prestigious position at The Post? Were you worried about the future at the newspaper?

Hoover: “I left the Post because I had to think about the future. I will have to work for at least another 20 years before I can retire. It was time to start thinking long-term about the path forward. I enjoyed being on the editorial board. It is a position of great responsibility, and you get to rub elbows with U.S. senators and occasionally foreign dignitaries and all manner of world-class minds. I was also treated well on the board and have great respect for my colleagues. My decision to leave transcended all that.”

What are a couple of your favorite memories of news reporting or opinion writing at The Post?

Hoover: “As with a magician’s code, we don’t reveal publicly who wrote which specific editorials. It’s supposed to be a consensus process and involves collaborative writing at times. I will say, however, how amusing it is when people think certain writers pen specific editorials because of their supposed political leanings and it happens that the piece was completely conceived and written by another writer with diametrically opposite political views. Editorial writers, like all people, are three-dimensional.

“I can say, however, that I especially enjoyed writing one blog piece with my byline about a very overwrought TV report on a state-owned airplane. It was fun to dissect the TV story, and it got a big reaction in the world of state government and politics.

“As for stories as a reporter, I think my best work was done scrutinizing claims made about the state budget, whether it was asserting that Gov. Bill Ritter had hired thousands of government employees when he hadn’t or claiming that certain businesses would be harmed by the removal of special tax breaks when in fact they admitted either they weren’t hurt at all or weren’t even affected by the changes. I enjoyed writing stories about a candidate for governor who embellished his past career as a small-town police officer and then backpedaled when put under the spotlight. I had a lot of fun reporting at the Post, and I’d just note that it followed stints at several other newspapers where I worked on lots of great stories. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to cover state politics and government at two major American newspapers, though my career covering many beats spanned two decades at multiple newspapers, small and large.”

What’s your response to conservatives who are saying that your move to PR proves you’ve been biased all along?

Hoover: “I didn’t really give it much thought. I am on good terms with many conservatives, and a number of them were very congratulatory about my move. It all comes down to the individual class a person has. You make some people angry as a reporter if you are doing your job correctly. It’s all part of the package.”

What advice would you give to a young person who wants to be a journalist?

Hoover: “That is a tough question. I don’t know if I could honestly encourage someone to go into the industry if they are not already pursuing journalism. I think I would tell them that they should only pursue journalism if they are so passionate about it they don’t think they want to do anything else. And if they do go into the business, do not do it in a half-assed way. We live in a time when anyone can be published, and so it has given rise to ‘pseudo-journalists,’ wannabe bloggers’ and hacks who work, if they get paid at all, for partisan operations or stealthy partisan donors. Many of these people couldn’t find a courthouse a block away with a map, couldn’t cover a fire, flood or shooting, have never had to write a story about a zoning hearing, school board or city council meeting or sit through hours of legislative committee hearings and floor work. They have not ever had to be real reporters. They don’t do quality research nor is their work scrutinized heavily by editors above them. They are lazy and sloppy and biased, and it is all the more reason why there need to be actual, trained journalists to go out and gather the news. If a young person still wants to be a real reporter despite all of the hardships they will face, then I would encourage them.”

Who will win: Romanoff or Coffman?

Hoover: “I would say Coffman is very vulnerable because of his newly drawn district and the fact that he has had to do a tightrope act on so many issues that has not pleased either side of the political spectrum. But so much of this could depend on what happens nationally. The Democratic brand has suffered greatly in the last several months because of the Obamacare rollout fiasco. It’s hard to say how that translates here in Colorado, and it is a long way to November.”

Any other thoughts?

Hoover: “My former colleagues still in the newspaper industry work far harder and under far more stressful conditions than most people realize. I would ask that readers and the public at large give them some well-deserved recognition at times. It’s almost Thanksgiving. Let’s be thankful we still have newspapers covering public affairs. And remember, some poor group of reporters and editors has to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas. The news doesn’t stop for the holidays.”

Follow Jason Salzman on Twitter @bigmediablog

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