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News Flash: Staffer Leaves Rocky -- But Plans to Return

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Given the number of folks leaving the Rocky Mountain News these days, word of another departure hardly qualifies as a stop-the-cyberpresses moment. But the latest report from longtime Rocky food writer John Lehndorff (pictured -- sort of) qualifies as a more significant surprise. Even though Lehndorff is heading out the door, he's hoping to come back through it before long, and in better shape than he's been in ages.

As noted in this July 2007 Message column, Lehndorff took a tumble while covering the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, with his fall compounding health problems that included a bum hip. However, Lehndorff's doctors told him they couldn't perform hip-replacement surgery until he dropped a considerable amount of weight -- and because he knew he couldn't achieve such shrinkage while continuing to act as a fulltime restaurant reviewer, he took on other duties while embarking on the diet of his life.

Now, finally, the time has come. In an e-mail, Lehndorff writes, "To cut rumors off at the pass, I'm out of the office, on vacation this week, getting a new right hip on Monday [February 18]. I should be back in the office a month or less after that. With hipness installed, I'll go back to writing, copy-editing and editing again."

Of course, Lehndorff's temporary exit is hardly the norm at the Rocky. The latest departures include a designer, a librarian, an editorial assistant -- and Jim Sheeler, the last writer to win an individual Pulitzer Prize for either of the Denver dailies; he earned this plaudit for "Final Salute," an epic about a military man charged with informing families that a loved one has died in combat. To make the loss sting just that much more, Sheeler isn't going to another newspaper. Instead, he's taken a position as an instructor at the University of Colorado Boulder journalism department.

Thank goodness Lehndorff will soon be back at full strength. The Rocky needs every healthy body it can find. -- Michael Roberts

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