By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
After 42 years in media, including 15 years as the chief of the state”s trade association for journalists, Ed Otte is ready to stop the presses — for now.
“My wife has a short list of house projects that I’ve been able to successfully stall with good alibi at the time, so I’m going to do those and then probably be bored and look at something else to do,” Otte joked in a recent interview with the Denver Daily News.
Otte will celebrate his retirement with friends, family and colleagues tonight at the Denver Press Club. The celebration — or condolences, as Otte quips — will begin at 6 p.m.
Journalists in Colorado know Mr. Otte as more than just a man who signs their press credentials as the executive director of the Colorado Press Association. He is a man who fought for greater public access to government records, for effective open meetings laws, and for reasonably priced copies of public records.
He guided local media through many storms, including the continuously changing landscape of journalism. Since 1995 when Otte took over at the Press Association, the Internet has drastically cut into classified ads, crushed revenues, decreased readership and forced closures. It was just in December 2008 that the Rocky Mountain News — Colorado”s oldest newspaper at the time — announced plans to close because it was unable to envision a world in which it could get in the black.
Optimistic about future
Despite the grim reality for many in media, Otte remains optimistic about the future, suggesting that community and local niche papers — such as the Denver Daily News — will continue to find ways to thrive, providing essential news to their communities.
“I’m optimistic about newspapers in general, especially community newspapers — whether they’re weeklies or small dailies in ranching and farming communities, or a paper such as (the Denver Daily News), which has carved out a niche in a larger metro market — because I think small papers are more in touch with their readers, they’re more relevant,” said Otte.
Over the course of his 42 years in media, Otte has worked at the Greeley Tribune, Alamosa Valley Courier, Colorado Springs Sun, Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, Bellevue (Ohio) Gazette, Santa Fe (N.M.) New Mexican and El Paso (Texas) Times. It’s safe to say Mr. Otte knows a thing or two about the newspaper business.
Journalists and ordinary citizens in Colorado owe a great deal to Otte”s efforts protecting access to open records and meetings.
The veteran journalist says he is most proud of his freedom-of-information efforts. His work led to some of the toughest freedom-of-information laws in the nation, including open meetings and open records laws. It’s relatively easy in Colorado to gain access to information related to executive sessions and public meetings thanks to Otte’s efforts.
He took Colorado from having some of the highest per page costs in the nation for copying public records to having a reasonable cost of 25 cents per page.
Small newspapers may want to kiss the ground Otte walks on for going to bat for them year after year, fighting the Legislature on efforts to eliminate legal publication requirements. Many smaller newspapers rely on legal notices as a significant revenue stream.
Otte laughed when asked by the Denver Daily News if he has a favorite publication or broadcast in Colorado, joking, “What is your publication?” But the Press Association chief then got serious about the question.
“There are so many good newspapers in this state, both dailies and weeklies,” said Otte. “The people I admire the most are the ones who day in, day out put out a really good publication with smaller resources, and a lot of operations have always been that way, and now more and more are in the same situation because of budget cuts. But they don”t want to back off and lower their standards and compromise on quality and the scope and depth of their coverage, they want to maintain that because their readers expect that.”
New executive director
Samantha Johnston will take over as the Colorado Press Association’s new executive director. She will start the job Sept. 13. Johnston comes from The Memorial Hospital in Craig. Prior to her work as the service excellence officer at the hospital, Johnston was regional director of advertising for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, Craig Daily Press and Hayden Valley Press. She also served as publisher, general manager and advertising manager for the Craig Daily Press.
Meanwhile, for his first house project following his retirement, Otte says he will tackle his continuously growing cluttered desk.
“My office at my house looks like a landfill because I just kept dumping papers and stuff in there — always with the excuse that I know which stack it”s in,” joked Otte, who said permanent retirement is not on his agenda.
“It’ll be a few months of doing things around the house, and I’ve got four grandchildren who live close by,” he said. “But then sometime around the end of the year, early next year, I’ll be bored and looking for something to do.”
Ed Otte Retirement Party
WHEN: Tonight, 6 p.m.
WHERE: The Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Place
INFO: Cash bar and hors d”oeuvres