Risk Averse

Colorado Springs police don't name a crime victim because of his advanced age, even though he shot and killed his attacker.

At present, there are no plans for Laugesen to have a personal column in the Gazette; his job will be to express the views of the paper's editorial boards. Even so, he has strong opinions of his own about many subjects of interest in the region, the New Life shootings among them.

"This is a pivotal moment in the national gun-rights debate," he says. "I, like many other Second Amendment advocates, have been arguing for many years that organizations, schools, churches and any entity that is responsible for gathering large crowds of people in small spaces should take responsibility for those in attendance by tolerating, facilitating and encouraging sober, responsible adults to get trained in the use of concealed handguns and get permitted to carry them lawfully." Among those he'd like to see take this step are "pastors, teachers, janitors — anyone who can pass the test."

Sounds like Laugesen will be very comfortable in his new home.


Pulling up stakes: Like many of his fellow reporters in the area, USA Today's Patrick O'Driscoll has spent much of his time over the past ten days or so covering the slayings at New Life and an Arvada youth mission — and because his beat has long extended beyond state lines, he also contributed to a report about the massacre at a mall in Omaha earlier this month. But that's all over now. O'Driscoll, who's 55, reveals that he recently accepted a buyout agreement. As a result, the paper's Denver bureau, which has been in operation since 1997, will close on December 20, his official last day.

USA Today is one of the rare U.S. daily newspapers to have registered minor circulation gains over the past year or so. Still, O'Driscoll says, "we had a couple of very bad months of advertising sales this fall, and there's at best a cloudy view of what next year is going to be like." These developments precipitated a buyout pact aimed at anyone who'd worked for Gannett, the paper's parent company, for at least fifteen years. In the end, 43 people signed up, and because this total was just two short of the announced goal, further reductions aren't imminent.

O'Driscoll has several reasons for exiting. "This might be the last, best time to leave with a pretty reasonable ability to reinvent myself professionally," he says. Moreover, he feared his job might have been in danger because of the expanding "correspondents program," which uses reporters at other Gannett-owned papers around the country to essentially serve as USA Today stringers. This approach allows the firm to continue cutting back on far-flung bureaus. Encampments in locales such as Boston and Seattle shut down quite a while back, with more expected to follow. O'Driscoll says that after the buyouts, USA Today will likely have just one staffer permanently located west of the Mississippi: Bill Welch, in Los Angeles.

For now, one USA Today scribe remains in Colorado: Vicki Michaelis, a sportswriter who specializes in Olympics coverage. News-wise, however, the paper is getting out of Denver, just as locally based reporters for the Chicago Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other members of what O'Driscoll jokingly calls "the foreign service" have done in recent years. As the New Life and Arvada tragedies indicate, Colorado is still generating lots of nationally significant headlines. But publications can no longer afford to pay employees to wait around for the next one.

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