SNOWDON: Thanks, Aurora — A big, quirky city, its people and journalism provide a PhD in humanity


AURORA | I’ve been thinking about how I would start this post for a long time.

Pretty much since the day I started here. A few days before I first started working as a staff writer, I read the exit column penned by my predecessor, Adam Goldstein — a cheery fellow I’ve had the privilege of working with a few times while here. He eloquently explained how much he enjoyed this paper, his co-workers and the innumerable interview subjects he pestered and cajoled through the years.

I remember wondering: “This guy is good. Damn this guy is good. I’m not that good. S***. Is my editor, Dave Perry, sure he called back the right applicant?” Those doubtful thoughts were quickly followed up by: “I wonder what I would write in a farewell column. I wonder if they’ll employ me long enough to write a column. I wonder if they called back the right guy.”

But a lot can happen in 36 months — a lot. And in so many ways, I now feel just about everything Adam expressed in that note.

Friday, July 14, is my last day at the Aurora Sentinel.

But before I totally stain my keyboard with tears (and you faithful readers pump your fists with joy) let’s start three years ago, when I somehow lucked my way into working under this bright red masthead, and when I knew next to nothing about journalism, professionalism, deadlines and the like.

It seemed inconceivable that someone had entrusted me with the task of discovering news. There’s some weighty power attached to a business card that all but requires many public figures and elected officials to answer questions, whether they be about their weekend plans or their policy positions. It’s incredible. I still can’t believe that someone at some point, somehow, decided I, a doe-eyed greenhorn just a few months out of college, was worthy of that privilege. Thanks to Aaron Cole and Perry for that.

There are a lot of thanks to go around. Thanks to the countless people who filled up my quotation marks for three years. To the city officials who visibly clenched their jaws when they saw me; to the Spanish speakers who cackled at my poorly articulated, over-the-phone responses; to the artists who begrudgingly described their passions to me; to the actors and actresses who hate my guts; to the young campers in Breckenridge who made me tear up on a mountainside; to the many new residents of America who glowed when I asked them about their new lives in the U.S.; to the many kids in Aurora Public Schools and the Cherry Creek School District who taught me that eloquence is in no way related to age; to the octogenarians who sat in wheelchairs and slowly hummed along to Benny Goodman tunes while I dotted my eyes —  the list goes on, but the sentiment remains. Thank you.

I can’t thank this place enough for giving me purpose and meaning and voice. Those can take a lifetime to find, but I think I teased out a few wisps while here.

Like any suburban (sorry to Steve Hogan for calling his city suburban) reporter, I’ve covered a slice of it all: Courtrooms, theaters, grain silos-turned glass blowing studios, racetracks, Air Force bases. It’s amazing how little you forget when you do something different every day. Sure, sometimes it bleeds into a single blotch of ink, but more often than not, the conversations stand out. Each one encased in context, stored away online and in editions under the desk in my Denver bedroom.

Still, very few of the hundreds of thousands of words I’ve scribbled here have been what most people would call “good.” That’s OK. That’s the nature of the thing. Being a reporter is a wonderfully torturous dance between self-deprication and backhanded validation. I frequently have to ask people, “Explain this to me as if I were a 5-year-old.” That doesn’t feel great as a college graduate. People then sometimes say the work is valuable. And, if you were to ask me, I’d say it damn sure is. But those same people follow that vague thumbs-up by pointing out typos and supposed bias. So it goes. But every once in a while, every once in a few thousand key strokes, even sub-par hacks are able to relate something that means something to someone. And, at this particular fish wrapper, that’s what we’re here for: To tell people about this hideously gorgeous, totally quixotic, rapidly changing, completely misunderstood city.

I’ll be forever thankful for this place and this publication. This weekly gray square that taught me more about humanity than any diploma ever could. And this massive, chameleonic town that showed me that having a chip on your shoulder has its perks, too. So thank you, all.

And thank you, trolls, for constantly shoving more gravel in my gut and helping me realize I have to do better. (You do realize you do that, right?) Thank you, elected officials for dissuading me from ever wanting to run for office. Thank you, Arapahoe County Sheriff’s office for helping me get over the lingering hump of having 666 Twitter followers. Thank you, Pakistani reporters, wonks and government voice boxes for giving me a glimpse into a remarkably distant corner of the world. (Did I not mention the fact that this gig somehow, miraculously, shot me to Pakistan last fall? Let me repeat: This rag endorsed sending a 24-year-old punk-ass kid to Pakistan. It was a trip that will stick with me for the rest of my life.)

Perhaps most importantly, thank you to all of the Sentinel alumni who dealt with hearing me leave cringe-inducing voicemails, listening to my grumbled cursing and teaching me more than I ever thought I’d know about this tribe of a profession.

So, here’s some inky, armchair wisdom for you, internet: Listen, read and keep reading. Because there’s always more. And, hey, give this city a goddamn chance for once, would ya?

Reporter Quincy Snowdon, a graduate of the University of Denver, covered a wide range of beats and stories for the Aurora Sentinel and Aurora magazine. An avid outdoor enthusiast, Snowdon is taking a hiatus to work as a technical climbing guide in Vietnam. Follow him on Twitter at @QuincySnowdon.