My editor, Kevin Kaufman, died last weekend. He was a big fan of my column but a scary editor during a job interview. The last time I applied for an internal job promotion, the interview felt like enhanced interrogation.
He will be missed.
His passing reminded me of my journey to Colorado.
I was working at a small paper in a big town in southern New Mexico.
I needed a change of scenery, and Loveland, Colo., seemed a million lovely miles away. The Reporter-Herald, that city’s local paper, needed a breaking news reporter. It was one of 16 or so papers I applied to work at and the only one that called.
My first interview went fairly well except for the following question: If you had to write a story on property crime and couldn’t talk to any government officials about it, who would you talk to?
I’ve never been good at hypotheticals. I said that I would go around and talk to people on the street. It was a lame answer, but all I had.
The editor gave me better responses. The ravages of time have wiped them from my memory. It was this, that and the other. He assured me that he tanked the answer the first time around.
He called a week later and said he was thinking of giving me the job, but another paper, the Longmont Times-Call, about 15 minutes down the road, needed reporters more than he did. Would I mind doing an interview with the editor there?
A week later, and I was on the phone, playing up my skills as a breaking news reporter. The editor asked the same question. I thought about saying I’d already been asked, but why let the truth get in the way of a good job interview?
“I’d talk to this, that and the other,” I answered.
“That’s pretty good,” the editor said. “But what about who, what and when?”
Things were looking pretty good. I might escape southern New Mexico yet.
The Longmont editor called and said two editors at the Boulder Daily Camera wanted to follow up with me. I now knew that Colorado had at least three towns in it aside from Denver.
It was the first time I spoke to Kaufman, and the phone call immediately took on a level of intensity I was not used to.
And there was the question again: If you had to write a story on property crime and couldn’t talk to any government officials about it, who would you talk to?
“I’d say I’d speak to this, that, the other, who, what and when but also whoever and why not?”
“Wow, you really listed a lot of people there,” Kaufman said.
“That’s because I’ve heard the question three times.”
(Rats, I wasn’t supposed to say that.)
“Those sons of bitches stole my question,” Kaufman barked.
I’m not a religious man, but I’ll tell you this — Kaufman is at the pearly gates right now, and he’s asking the questions.