What do you want Gilbert readers to know about the newspaper's presence in town?
We’re going to be here. Consistently. Every day. We’re not just doing drop-ins for a story when it suits us. My attention isn’t divided between Gilbert and some other community. We’re going to be all about Gilbert and providing residents with fair, objective news that helps them know what’s going on and understand it. We aim to be a useful resource for you as you navigate life as a resident of Gilbert.
What is your journalism background? What do you hope to bring to Gilbert in your role?
I grew up a newspaper reader. I would come out in the morning, pour my Cheerios into the bowl and spread that big, old broadsheet out on the floor, sprawl out and read the news while eating. On vacation when we’d camp, I’d insist on getting the paper from whatever general store served the area. So when a teacher fanned that flame a little in the sixth grade, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life, and I pursued it without interruption thereafter.
I was fortunate to work at my hometown newspaper company for 30 years and have been teaching journalism classes at ASU’s Cronkite School for 13 years and been the editorial adviser to The State Press, ASU’s student media outlet, for the past three and a half years. I’m really a journalism lifer, and I still love it. I hope that experience and passion translates into an indispensable newspaper for Gilbert.
How did you first hear about CI? What made you decide to join the company?
Honestly, I had never heard of it until my wife found the job posting online in June. When I read the posting, I was intrigued. And then I started the application process and began doing my own research into the company. The deeper I dug, the more excited I became about it—the quality of the journalism, the foundational values, the commitment to excellence. And just the fact that it wasn’t answering to investors who don’t care about the journalism and force never-ending cuts upon media companies that can’t afford such without severely compromising the product. So the private, committed ownership itself was promising.
But what really did it for me was watching a video they did on how the “original six” of the company came together in John and Jennifer Garrett’s game room and launched the first edition of the paper. It reminded me of my own days at The State Press, how we, as friends in the newsroom, worked so hard for so long to put that paper out and have it be good. We had an unmatched camaraderie. It really was a labor of love, and it bonded us for life—those people are still some of my closest friends. To see that replicated at a professional company? I wanted in. Every interview along the way confirmed that for me. And what I’ve seen since being hired and the people I’ve met here also validated it. It’s a terrific company, and I honestly believe we’re going to do great things in Gilbert.
Where can Gilbert-area residents and community leaders expect to meet you as you establish your presence in Gilbert and beyond?
In the restaurants! If you’re in a pizza parlor, you stand a decent chance of running into me. I think those places are going to see a business boom with me in town, much to my doctor’s chagrin. Seriously, I will be out and about like that and also at the public meetings. If you see me, stop and say hello!
Our publisher, Amy Ellsworth, can tell you, as well as any of my ASU students, I am not a shrinking violet. I’d love to meet you and hear your living-in-Gilbert stories. Also, you can follow me on Twitter @sp_blodgett. I try to be conversational there, too.
What is your favorite thing about Gilbert so far? What has surprised you?
It’s kind of a non-specific answer, but I just love the feel of the town. It has its own vibe, and I like that. I have several friends living in Gilbert, and I asked them when I was still just a job candidate for this what they liked about living here. The answer pretty much always came back as a version of “there’s a small-town feel here, but it has the amenities and population of a bigger city.” That’s something you hear from town officials, too, but it appears to actually resonate with the residents.
Having lived in the Valley since age 5, I’m not sure Gilbert really has surprised me, per se, but I have witnessed the remarkable growth from sleepy farm town into what it is today. I remember driving through the Heritage District at night two or three years ago, and it had been a while since I had been through, so the changes were pronounced. And I thought, 'Wow, Gilbert has really grown up.' It’s cool, and I’m excited to be a part of it.