This issue, “10 Questions” checks in with Eric John Monson, editor at The Chronicle-News in Trinidad, a five-day-a-week newspaper serving the city and surrounding communities in southeastern Colorado since 1876. Working at the newspaper since August 2014, he guides coverage of a large and diverse territory......
Originally from Minnesota, he currently lives in downtown Trinidad. Here’s his view of newspaper life on
the Colorado border:
1 – First off, your newspaper was recently sold and will now be locally owned for the first time in
75 years as Julie and Kirk Loudon, and Kim and Rich Hoffman of Chronicle-News Media Group,
LLC take over. What immediate changes, or longer-range goals, do you see?
There is a lot to do. We are bringing everything back in-house and preparing to be on our own and
independent for the first time in, as you mention, a long time. There is an aggressive learning curve and
it’s an impressive undertaking for all of us here, including our new owner/operators, and luckily, friends. I
don’t think there is one area we aren’t re-examining – whether that’s accounting, circulation, sales,
design, legals, classifieds, community services, our digital products and even our editorial processes.
Yet, the priority above all that is customer service. We’re trying to rebuild all these processes while
actually improving our customer service. Of course that’s all on a deadline, and we are doing that while
also moving our offices. Unfortunately, we have to leave the building the newspaper built here, but we are
very proud to remain in downtown Trinidad and remain a stable institution for this community.
Properly projecting that stability while becoming independent is kind of the whole rub to the situation and
we’re hoping we resemble a duck on the water, with a lot going on under the surface while staying steady
above. I guess if I had to give you a defined goal for the short term that would be it. But the truth is, right
now, we are in a dead sprint and the goals pop up and change daily. We’re hanging on, becoming quite
the interesting family in the process and trying to have a little fun when we can.
2 – You’re currently working as both editor and business manager. What are your duties and how
does your time split doing those two jobs?
Thankfully, my new bosses have seen fit to demote me to just editor. And I don’t think I could be happier,
though it may take some time for me to shirk all my management duties. The painful fact was maintaining
the workload of both positions was unsustainable. I lasted the year it took to find help. The two jobs
require completely different thought processes and even demeanors and it was a struggle to find any
balance and maintain the requirements of both positions.
Luckily, I have Cathy Moser and Steve Block and they picked up the editorial slack when I had to focus
on business things. I know that might not be the sunny answer you were hunting, but I’m proud of my time
as caretaker of the position and thankful for what I learned over the time. I have a new appreciation for
our team here and I certainly know now that it takes a team. And the team we added – our new owners –
has all the skills and proper demeanors to shoulder those burdens that I wasn’t strong enough to manage
3 – You’re from Granite Falls in southwest Minnesota and worked as sports editor and writer at
the Granite Falls and Clarkfield Advocate Tribune. Was that your first journalism job, and were
there others prior to your coming to The Chronicle-News? How did you wind up here?
Yes. I started with the Advocate Tribune as an intern when I was 15. An English teacher sent me there
after I’d annoyed her enough and I worked there on and off through college until they made me an editor.
Reporting on your hometown and sometimes even family can be emotionally tough at times and I was
ready for a new challenge and was able to take some time to find a new situation.
I realized quickly that I was a country kid and found Trinidad while traveling between Fort Collins and
Texas. It was the right size and a perfect situation and I’ve come to really love the uniqueness of this
place and the challenges it presents.
4 – Your newspaper has served “Trinidad, Southeast Colorado (and) Northeast New Mexico since
1876.” Given that diversity, what are the revenue challenges and successes in your area?
The challenge is in our demographics and geography. We are small, rural and not many of us make much
money here, compared to a more metro area. That, and we cover a region that includes some of the
largest counties in the country, geographically. I think our successes in revenue generation have come
when we cater to small transactions.
We host a “Church” page weekly that costs a nominal fee weekly to include your church’s information.
That page can almost carry our Friday edition itself. Our e-edition is available also at a low price point
each month if a customer chooses a recurring transaction, and we’ve more than quadrupled our customer
base there. We’ve succeeded when we’ve met our customer where they are, whether that’s
geographically or financially.
5 – With the changes you’re going through, what is the first editorial project on your agenda?
We can do a better job covering our local schools here and we’d like to increase our sports coverage of
those same schools.
6 – The Chronicle-News has quite a history, from hot-lead type days on. Through mining-camp
and coal-production times – including reporting on Las Animas County Sheriff Bat Masterson –
the newspaper has “been a part of the life of generations of people in this beautiful mountain
desert town,” to quote your website. How does that legacy of journalism influence the newspaper
I would like to think we, as reporters, are still as rough-and-ready as they were then, but I haven’t been
shot at – yet. Our office has been a consistent part of life here and we are constantly reminded that the
people we report on are not just our subjects, but are our neighbors and friends. That means we often act
outside our job descriptions.
There are plenty of times we act as advisors, mediators and even psychiatrists. Sometimes people just
need to vent and who better to yell at than the people most accustomed to criticism? Most importantly, we
take very seriously our role as the first recorders and caretakers of this community’s history. We are a
touchstone for almost everybody who has lived in Trinidad, from the birth announcement to the obituary
and everything in between.
7 – Who was your most-influential mentor and how would he or she describe you?
That’s impossible and dangerous to pick, but I will say that most have been women. They would describe
me as lazy, slow, stubborn, incorrigible, uncommunicative, distant and unhealthy – though patient, polite
and caring to a fault.
8 – What job or time has been the highlight of your journalism career?
I would say I am in it right now.
9 – Neat desk and office or not, and what would we see there?
I’m a newspaperman. It’s generally atrocious. Though I do try and keep it looking better than the people
that taught me, so I clean it with a scoop shovel about once a month. I realize now there is a sad lack of
personal effects, but I do have a “thinking football.”
10 – Last year you shared a link to a video for a Future Film Makers contest. Were you a part of
that and is this an ongoing hobby?
Nope, wrong guy, but I get the gist … I do play piano and sing around here professionally and very
occasionally, I’ll go with that … Music is another one of those things forced on me and taught to me by
mean, old, wonderful women – and another thing that I am immensely thankful to them for.