If you were one of those people who only bought the Denver Post on Wednesdays or Sundays, primarily to read Scott Willoughby's Outdoor columns, you might have wondered where his column was yesterday. That column wasn't printed, nor will any future columns be, because the Post has decided in its infinite wisdom that things happening in the "outdoors" are no longer of interest to its dwindling readership.
If you've read any of Scott's stuff, you know he was a worthy successor to the proud tradition the Post had with its outdoor coverage. In Bob Saile, Charlie Meyers, and Scott, the Denver Post had three of the best writers on subjects outdoors and otherwise that could be found in any American newspaper. But in a changing media landscape, why waste such valuable newsprint real estate on something as pointless as the "out of doors", when it could be used for something more important like Kardashian family updates, or an American Chinese Furniture Warehouse ad?
I've always admired that way Scott and Charlie could take a complex subject, and winnow it down to the small amount of word room they had to work with, and make it informative, funny, and to the point. Both men also had the ability to turn a phrase or two in their stories that made whatever subject they were writing about linger in your mind. We no longer get to be enlightened by Charlie's words, but I'm sure we'll be hearing from Scott again very soon in some new outlet (or at least I hope so!)
Below is the column you would have read on Wednesday, if the Post had enough class, taste and wisdom to print it. Of course if they had, they wouldn't have been consigning the Colorado outdoors to the dustbin to begin with, and Scott would not have had to write it in the first place.
Scott Willoughby's Last Denver Post Column (unpublished)
The best stories have always originated in the outdoors.
Be it the fireside tale that never grows old no matter how many times it’s told, or a modern classic born of the latest adventure, the wild outside has always offered the ideal backdrop for compelling drama.
Like the rest of the world, the genre has evolved over time, taking us beyond the campfire to the Ted Trueblood era of Field & Stream, establishing local newspaper legends like Charlie Meyers, Bob Saile and Ed Dentry before making its way to the cutting edge of social media and contemporary brands like Yeti Coolers that urge through advertising: Be the guy with the story about the bear.
Along the way, it found folks like you and me: Drawn in by nature’s allure, hooked by the sensations of adventure, dedicated to enriching and sharing the experience so that others might come to understand our collective passion for the outdoors and embrace it as their own. The stories are the things that connect us best to the land, the water, the wildlife and one another.
There will always be a place for compelling outdoor stories and storytelling in Colorado, just no longer here on these pages. Or perhaps just no longer here by me.
As of this week, The Denver Post has decided to do away with its traditional Outdoors pages, and by extension, my position as Outdoors writer, photographer and columnist. I’ve been invited to continue writing stories about Rams, Buffaloes and Falcons, but like those college sports mascots, the gesture feels symbolic at best. In all likelihood, this is the final column, outdoors or otherwise, I’ll be asked to write for The Denver Post.
Among those outside the paper already aware of this decision, the disappointment has been universal. The pervading sense of loss has less to do with me personally than to Colorado’s collective outdoors community as an entity. In the absence of an uprising — and likely even in its presence — the voice of that community expressed for so long on these pages will soon fade to black. So many stories are left untold.
It can be easily argued that these stories of wild places and the people drawn to them are more important now than ever. As our sprawling world grows ever more crowded, battle lines drawn over resources in greater demand, such places offer respite and reward that can’t be found or recreated anywhere else. And they require the voices of those who know and love them best to keep the fire lit.
My ambition is to continue down this path, although where it leads is anyone’s guess right now (and yes, I am open to offers). After more than a decade dedicated to the cause of Colorado outdoors, the mission and message remain as compelling as ever. It’s the job I was born to do.
First though, my heartfelt thanks are due for the opportunity I’ve had to do the job I’ve most aspired toward. While there is much more to achieve, for a time, at least, I could lay claim to the best job in Colorado.
But like the campfire that gave birth to so many stories and outdoor traditions, this chapter is about to go up in smoke. I have no doubt the fire has not gone out, however. The flame will reignite and grow. The stories — maybe even some told by me — will linger. And new ones will emerge.
The void is great. But the tale is never-ending.
By Scott Willoughby