Earlier today, we told you about the decision by the Denver Post to hire former Rocky Mountain News sportswriter Jeff Legwold. But he's not the only veteran of the tabloid's sports department with a new gig. Today, the University of Colorado announced that B.G. Brooks, who began writing for the Rocky in 1978 and manned the CU beat from 1987 until the paper's February demise, will be writing for its athletic-department website, CUBuffs.com.
"I wasn't frantically looking for a job," Brooks says. "I had faith something would turn up. But in this climate, you never know. Many of my former co-workers are still in the looking stage. So I feel very fortunate to have had this come done the way it's done."
It's been months since the Rocky folded, but Brooks concedes that the shock hasn't entirely worn off. "There's a sense of disbelief," he says. "I really have to pinch myself when I think that it happened the way it did. Once the Scripps execs came to town, it was 24 hours and then it was gone. But it was a good run. We can all lament the fact that it went away as it did, but I have no regrets about my time spent at the Rocky."
As Brooks found himself back on the job market at a time when newspaper gigs are fewer and further between than at any time in recent memory, CU was looking for ways to beef up content at CUBuffs.com. CU athletic department spokesman Dave Plati's written pieces for the site, as have other employees and even the occasional student journalist, but they haven't had the time to focus on much beyond "nuts and bolts," Plati acknowledges. Moreover, using Associated Press content for more in-depth game reports definitely had its drawbacks: "When we played Texas, the story was 95 percent about Texas even though it was on our website," Plati notes.
In recent years, a handful of other universities facing similar issues have solved them by supplementing their staff with an in-house journo. According to Plati, "North Carolina State was the first school to hire a fulltime reporter back in 2004 [Tim Peeler, formerly with the Greensboro News & Record], and then both the Big Twelve and Baylor did it [hiring ex-Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter Wendell Barnhouse and Waco Tribune-Herald scribe Jerry Hill, respectively]. And now, with so many newspaper people out of work all of a sudden, there's an awful lot of talent and experience out there, and we thought, this could be a way of driving more people to our website."
Taking on this mission initially gave Brooks some pause. After all, he'd spent his entire career trying to cover events from the perspective of an unbiased observer. "It's a transition, no doubt about that," he says. "If it were politics, it would be like going from one side of the aisle to the other. But people here have been very, very understanding about it, and very forthright about wanting objectivity to play a part in what I do.
"I realize that I'm a CU employee now," he continues. "There isn't any way around that. But I think there are definitely parameters I'll be able to work within. I'll still be able to take an analytical look at what's going on in athletics. That doesn't mean I'm going to go out of my way to come down hard on whoever makes a mistake, but I don't think I really did that at the Rocky Mountain News, either. I wasn't a columnist; I wasn't the guy who carried the ax. I think they looked at my body of work and saw a great deal of objectivity -- and I think that's one of the things that made this idea attractive."
For the most part, Brooks will focus on CU football and basketball, but he'll have the flexibility to write features about athletes in other specialty areas; he specifically mentions CU track-and-field standout Jenny Barringer. "I couldn't be more excited about that part of it," he says. "I really like to deal with the people playing the sports, and I think, for the most part, that's what fans enjoy reading: personality pieces where they can learn what makes these people tick."
Brooks' debut column for CUBuffs.com is slated to debut tomorrow, and he's already got several interviews under his belt, with more on the agenda. "I see this job as a great opportunity," he says.
And a well-timed one at that.