If you pay even an ounce of attention to Colorado politics, you know her byline. Lynn Bartels is a staple of any self-respecting media consumer’s diet — until this Friday, that is. After this week, readers will be cut off when Bartels ducks out of The Denver Post newsroom to become Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ new communications director.
Bartels leaves behind an epic run in the world of Colorado journalism.
She left The Albuquerque Tribune in 1993 to become a night cops reporter for The Rocky Mountain News. There she became a celebrated political reporter. When that paper folded in 2009, she got hired on at The Denver Post and has been dominating the Statehouse beat since.
Her style makes watching politics feel like watching sports, and apparently that’s what she’s going for.
“Lynn Bartels thinks politics is like sports but without the big salaries and protective cups,” states her bio at The Post.
Bartels is gratified to know players on both teams, Republicans and Democrats, are sad to see her go, she told The Colorado Independent.
“I mean I have people who despise me. Trust me,” she said. “But when the announcement came out, people were like, ‘Oh no! This is terrible for journalism and for Colorado politics!,’ and the people saying it were on both sides of the aisle.”
The Colorado Independent’s own Mike Littwin, who worked alongside Bartels for years at both The Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post, praised Bartels for being a tough reporter who maintained her connections with lawmakers.
“That’s almost impossible to do,” he said. “She can get anybody to call her back at any time. That’s the way it’s always been for as long as I’ve been here.”
Now, Bartels will be the one taking reporters’ calls.
“I have some big shoes to fill in Colorado’s world of spokes-folks,” she said. “I hope to earn the respect Dan Hopkins got when he worked for Gov. Bill Owens, become as strategic as Andrew Hudson was for Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, and know my stuff as well as Tustin Amole with the Cherry Creek School District.”
Bartels described her friendly relationship with her soon-to-be boss, Secretary of State Wayne Williams, in a press release from his office. “I’ve liked Wayne ever since he lent me $20 at the Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities in 2008 after I left my billfold at the hotel. By the way, I paid it back.”
Williams said in the release that he’s thrilled to have Bartels on his team. “When Coloradans think of Lynn Bartels, they think of experience, professionalism, and humor.”
She took the buyout deal Denver Post supervisors offered last month, which is big news in the news business.
Denver Post Editor-in-chief Greg Moore told Westword the buyout is meant to shrink the paper’s staff by around twenty to stave off expenses as revenue from print ads continues to slow down. In the backdrop, The Post’s parent company Digital First Media put the paper up for sale nearly a year ago, and so far there’ve been no bites. At the end of June, DFM CEO John Paton stepped down.
Media observers wonder whether The Post’s financial situation is yet another sign that print dailies are going extinct.
Bartels doesn’t link her departure to the decline of newspapers generally but agreed, “Journalism is in trouble. There’s no doubt about it.”
And just because she won’t technically be a reporter anymore doesn’t mean she’ll ever shake the instinct.
“My dad once told me it’s perfect I went into reporting because as a little kid I liked to overhear adults’ conversations and say, ‘Who? Who? Who? What are you talking about?’ And he would say, “Who? Who? Are you an owl?'”
Don’t expect Bartels to stop her who-ing anytime soon. “I don’t think I can. It’s such a part of who I am. It’s in my DNA.”
@lynn_bartels biggest retirement since John Elway.
— John Swartout (@JohnSwartout) July 16, 2015
— Lynn Bartels (@lynn_bartels) July 15, 2015
Photo credit: Joe Murphy, Creative Commons, Flickr.