These days, it's far from unusual for newspaper employees to voluntarily leave their jobs. However, the impending departure of Denver Post entertainment editor Ed Smith, whose last day is April 11, remains noteworthy given his reputation at the paper -- he's widely admired by the folks with whom he's worked -- and the way he's held the Post's A&E section together despite publication-wide trims. Whereas the Rocky Mountain News' Spotlight section is a ghost of its former self, propped up on most days by a dubious collection of wire copy, big-play art, random blurbage and freelance contributions, the Post continues to offer plenty of credible homegrown coverage, including staff-generated movie and TV reviews.
Is that about to change? No one would be surprised considering how severely features departments at newspapers across the country have been slashed -- some, like the Rocky, to the point of virtual decimation. Still, Smith insists that his decision to take a position with the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures shouldn't be seen as portending something similar at the Post. "I'll give Greg Moore a lot of credit," he says, referencing the Post's editor. "I don't think we've suffered a disproportionate amount of cuts. Everybody's taken a hit, and we've certainly lost some people," including Bill Porter, now a metro columnist, Michael Booth, currently part of the news-side anchor team, and Dick Kreck, who took a recent buyout deal. "And there's no question that things have gotten more difficult as we've had less in the way of resources -- both people and space." Nevertheless, he believes that "we've been able to maintain a certain kind of seriousness of tone and taken the arts-and-culture scene here seriously -- tried to do a robust job of covering all aspects of it."
Smith, 54, acknowledges that the state of the newspaper business played a part in his decision to move on -- but more important in his view was his interest in new challenges. "I've been in the newspaper business for 33 years, and I thought that if I wanted to do something else in the last chapter of my career, now was the time," he maintains. "I knew I didn't want to do public relations. So I looked around for other things, and this came along."
The NCSL gig calls for Smith to edit State Legislatures, the organization's magazine, and the publication's online arm, accessible at NCSL.org. "It was a good opportunity for me to edit a magazine again," he says, noting that he handled this chore at the now-defunct Post Sunday mag for nine years, beginning in 1989, when he left a job at the San Francisco Chronicle to join the Denver broadsheet. "That was certainly a very satisfying part of my newspaper career. The chance to do something like that again was pretty attractive."
Even after his departure, Smith will be part of the Post's extended family. His wife, Lori Smith, is an online producer for the A&E department and also copy edits on the features desk -- and because she intends to stay, he says, "I'll still hear all the gossip on a daily basis." He adds, "I don't want to give the impression that I'm leaving because I'm unhappy with the Post or that they've treated me badly. Absolutely the opposite is true. It's been a great place to work, and I hate to go. It's sad. But sometimes you've got to make these decisions in your life." -- Michael Roberts