This past weekend was a significant anniversary for a small group of people, though it passed, as far as I know, unacknowledged. On June 11, 1996, the first edition of the Boulder Planet newspaper came out (it was supposed to come out on June 10th, but in what was something of an omen for the star-crossed little paper, it took an extra day).
The Planet didn't make it to its tenth anniversary; it didn't even make it to its fourth. It faced an uphill battle; a free weekly newspaper trying to make it in a city of 80,000 people that already had two dailies and a weekly. In retrospect, perhaps it was doomed from the start. But for a time, it was a great ride -- at its peak, it felt like anything we'd try would turn out well.
The Planet was my first job out of college, and early on, a co-worker said "it'll be a long time before you realize how lucky you are -- having your first job at a start-up like this." I scoffed -- at 23, I was an expert on everything -- but, of course, she proved to be right.
Beyond the fact that the small staff gave me the chance (well, at the time it seemed like forced tasks) to do lots of little things, I worked with some of the most talented people I've ever met. Recent Pulitzer winner Jim Sheeler has been mentioned here before, but beyond him, we had a lot of really talented people, top to bottom.
The heyday, I guess, was from 1997 through early 1998, including a near-sweep of state journalism awards. Life seemed perfect: long, beer-soaked lunches and happy hours, knowing that we were doing some great work, and the utter joy that comes from being in your mid-20s and in paradise. I'm over-romanticizing it, of course. I had no idea at the time how unique the experience was, as my co-worker had said. I was a self-absorbed, over-dramatic little snot, much of the time. But I still get all misty when I look back.
Ultimately, mismanagement, the crowded market, layoffs, and subsequent plummeting morale killed the Planet experience -- I left in spring 1999 (in a properly self-absorbed, over-dramatic manner), and the paper itself went under early the next year.
I've stayed in touch with several Planeteers since leaving, and count a few among my closest friends. For historical purposes, a few are represented on the web; I've mentioned Sid plenty of times, now bravely trying the "blank front page" format, and Sauer; former Planet humor columnist Earl Noe is, I believe, responsible for the "Mondo Boulder" site, and office manager/cartoonist/pornographer Matt McKown is making friends with some new work.
This is, I fear, a post that has little interest to anyone who wasn't there. Thanks for indulging me, those of you who've read this far. And any old co-workers reading this: raise a pint this weekend to the Boulder Planet's memory. Yeah, it's a little late, but we were never much for deadlines.