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 AJR  The Beat

From AJR,   October/November 2003  issue

Back to Boulder   

Susan Deans returns to her journalism roots to lead the Daily Camera


By Jill Rosen
Jill Rosen is AJR's assistant managing editor     

Though one's not supposed to be able to go home again, Susan Deans is trying just that at Boulder, Colorado's Daily Camera, where she took the top job in September, 25 years after starting her career there.

Deans, 55, returned to the Daily Camera from Denver's Rocky Mountain News, where she'd been an assistant managing editor since 1999. In Boulder, Deans replaces Colleen Conant, who surprised the staff by announcing an early retirement in August.

Deans says when officials at the E.W. Scripps Co., which owns both the Daily Camera and the Rocky Mountain News, called her about the job, she all but said, "I'll get on the plane in a minute, or I'll take the job on the phone." After a couple weeks back in Boulder, it's a running case of déjà vu: "There are stories that I covered that are still going on, people that are still here."

Deans began her career as a reporter with the Daily Camera in 1977. She also spent time in Boulder earning a master's degree from the University of Colorado-Boulder.

One challenge for Deans will be hooking Boulder's intellectual, college-town community onto the Daily Camera. To do that, she says the paper must find the right balance between the national and international news such readers demand, and the local content that's a smaller paper's lifeblood. "It's a pretty hard crowd to please," she says. The other side of the college-town dilemma is attracting young people. Deans wonders if the answer might be found in expanding the paper's weekend entertainment tab and having similar concepts run on other days of the week.

Deans also hopes the Daily Camera can capture its city's quirky nature. "I want us to embrace the things that make it different and help people understand the real Boulder--whatever that is," she says, adding that a regular "only in Boulder" feature might provide that.

Michael Cote, the Daily Camera's business editor, says though a new leader was something of a shock for the staff, most people are encouraged that Deans is a veteran of their paper and knows its territory. "She wanted to come here," Cote says. "She's happy to be here, and it shows."