You can handle the truth, and Mike Moran proved it

If there’s one constant in business, it’s that it’s always changing. Nothing could be more true for small businesses, especially in this economy. And as we head into September, changes are indeed coming to the Business Times.

The paper has actually grown while weathering the economic storm pretty well. We’ve grown in producing 36- to 40-page editions twice a month. This from starting the same format at only 16 to 20 pages a little over three years ago. We completely redesigned our Web site to publish every story we write while making the Web site interactive for users. And our position in the marketplace, along with the superior quality we turn out in terms of both content and print quality, has allowed for sales growth in each of the past two years.

Am I bragging? Maybe a little. Am I proud? You bet.

But as a small business owner, I realize any success stems from one thing more than any other. And that is to have good people in the right place. This has always been true of my editor, Phil Castle, who has allowed me to never worry about the content of the paper since I’ve been in town. Phil has carried the load in terms of designing the paper as well. What you see twice per month in our pages is the dedication and patience of a man who’s excellent at his craft. This is the same man who literally hand-walked a cocky, know-nothing, ex-retail manager, new owner through the ropes all those years ago.

Phil’s recognition and patience allowed me to do what I do best, and that is make sales. After all, like my dad says, nothing happens at the paper until someone sells something. It is sales that allow Phil and Mike Moran the page after page of opportunity to tell the great business stories this valley has to offer.

And that’s where our change is now coming. After nearly six years of faithfully turning in quality stories while holding down what seemed to be countless other jobs, volunteer positions and family responsibilities, Mike is on to a new chapter in his life. The Business Times’ loss is Colorado Mesa University’s gain. Mike is taking a full-time position at the university teaching speech and coaching the debate team. I have no doubt Mike will be extremely successful, particularly in the latter role — mainly because I’ve had many a spirited debate with Mike in the office!

I also know personally that Mike has had more than his fair share of debates with the leaders of our business, government and education communities because he and I have e-mail boxes full of the same question: “Why are you asking us that? No one else in the media is.”

The best part about Mike is that he asked the same question over and over to get the answer, no matter how long it took.

Is this a column about speaking truth to power? Maybe. Is this a column about Mike’s relentless search for truth? Absolutely. And I’m proud that Mike made more than one leader in our town a tad nervous about an interview with the Business Times. But I’m more proud that once that interview was over and the story was published, all who read it understood the fairness and integrity with which it was written.

You see, I’ve never in my 11 years at the paper told Phil or Mike what to write, what not to write or in any way made a determination about the story content of the paper. Although both of them always had the courtesy to ask about stories knowing full well that a story could indeed affect our lifeblood of sales, the answer was always the same: run the story. And I am happy to say that the few times of consternation were more than made up for in the quality and content of the paper these two have consistently provided.

All of that said, at this point I do want to make a recommendation to the folks at Colorado Mesa University. I firmly believe you should find a way for Mike to teach a course in journalism as it relates to integrity, ethics and quality of reporting. I don’t suggest this on my own, as I’ve heard the same sentiment from business leaders across the spectrum when they hear the news of Mike’s departure and where he’s headed. The fact is, the main qualities of a reporter must be ethics and integrity. Agree with Mike or not — and truth be told, Mike learned to agree with me more often in our debates, so I did help — and regardless of how tough Mike had been perceived to be in getting to the crux of a story, no one ever came back and said that Mike did anything unethical or outside the lines of journalistic integrity. That’s a lesson that must be shared with up and coming journalists, not to mention with students across the spectrum.

So after this edition, we bid Mike farewell. Phil and I are already making plans for the next chapter of the paper. Have no fear, Phil and I produced the paper on our own for years before Mike came on board, so we’ll handle the transition just fine.

And just like Mike, we look forward to the opportunities the future holds.