jeanine fritz

O ver the Fourth of July weekend, two long-time, local newspaper people passed away.

This suckiness got me thinking about newspapers, about how they've changed, and how they change the people who work for them.

At 19, when I was young and dumb and skinny, I snagged a contract weekend job writing the obits for the Broomfield Enterprise. I couldn't believe the lucky turn my burgeoning career had taken. It might sound like a miserable job, and it often was, but as I sat there sifting through sad words, I also saw all the love and appreciation for another person peeking out of the grief like sunshine through curtains.

Over the years, I'd work at other newspapers in the group, running the layout department, writing an outdoor column, working as a film critic, wrangling online ad campaigns. My fellow co-workers celebrated my 21st birthday (and subsequent first hangover), helped me get my driver's license at 22 (and the parade of beater cars that followed), witnessed the start and end of all of my great loves, the loss of my stepmother, and 10 years later, the loss of my father. They helped me rally for a move to Norway and they helped me get back on my feet when it didn't work out. I've met best friends, roommates and mentors in this place. These people aren't my co-workers so much as they're my family.

On July 3, I heard a sports editor had passed. He was there when I first started, had been there a long time already, in fact. Dan Creedon was salty and straight-forward and kind and right -- the sort of guy who inspired trust, because every dealing with him started on honest ground. For years, I'd pull pranks on his writers, and this is one of the ways I learned to respect deadlines -- because Dan only yelled at me when I pranked too close to 11:30 p.m.

Two days later, when I heard we'd lost easily the kindest IT man on earth, my knees buckled.

The impulse while reading an obit is to take at least 10 percent off the top -- people understandably tend to exaggerate a person's attributes in these situations. Not the case with G. I heard, "This man gives and gives and expects nothing in return," and through tears all I could croak back was, "Nailed it."

I remember going to baseball games together and rooting for the Dodgers until my aunt informed me I'd be ousted from the family if I didn't stick with our Giants. G understood, but this didn't prevent him and his brother from teasing me. I kept my Dodgers hat close by this past Friday, through work, through the funeral, and into the evening.

I'm not sure it's possible to avoid being close to your fellow newspaper peeps. The very nature of deadlines creates an environment of cooperation -- the other option is mutual destruction. And when you lose people -- it starts one day and then has a funny way of happening over and over again -- you realize life is short, sure, but I was reminded that life can be brutal, perhaps harder for some. It makes a lot of sense that some folks stare this all in the face and take a step back. I'm proud to work alongside so many people who didn't.

Through that first horrible weekend and into this last one, I watched our people step forward to help, to share, to grieve, and I was reminded again that the 19 year-old who got a little contract work at the Broomfield paper so many years ago really was lucky.