Reflections on my days at the Daily Camera

Sleazy images and vulgarity do the Camera no service

| May 5, 2010

As some of you know, for three years I had a column in Boulder’s Daily Camera — until I was fired from off the premises back in January, in order, I was told, to reduce the number of freelance columnists and get more sport-writing from a woman fully employed at the paper.

I was not terribly surprised, suspecting all along that I was not exactly the sort of writer the Camera wanted, too old, too old-fashioned, too not “with it.” I had, however, found a considerable readership — a great bunch of people — one of whom was allowed to testify in the forum columns when I was dismissed.


I was glad to have found readers outside the confines of sport and recreation who professed to enjoy my letting an idea about fishing lead to ideas out in the greater world of affairs and sometimes of the heart. This reciprocity of ideas between fishing and the big world has long been a hobbyhorse of mine. So, another readership, in addition to that for my books, magazine articles, The Bouldercreek Angler series, and its twin, The Bouldercreek Actor, was an immense pleasure.

Well-meaning friends urged me to take up a blog and publish the BC Angler therein. And I did, and I urge you to have a look at it at And to add what some might call insult to injury, I am now a columnist for a bright, young, online “newspaper”, The Boulder Reporter.

But to get back to the matter of the Camera, for which the conventional wisdom on the street is that it is dying and at a good clip. That saddens me a lot. I have loved the Camera, loved it far longer than most, and perhaps as long as any in town. I read its funnies, every evening, while in the first grade down at Whittier. And that was a long while ago — the year FDR was first elected. My life is recorded in its pages. I have sturdily resisted all talk of the death of the Camera and most criticism of its content.

But now I have to give in and give up, and admit that the paper is probably lost to us. Just yesterday, I admitted myself to the company of those who grieve over what has become of it. As I read the columns of those who have replaced me on the “Get Out” page of the sport section, I think I see what it is that the Camera wants to be, where it might hope to continue to eke out an existence. It is in the theme of the Boulder “recreationist,” the youthful company of the seekers after health and long life from their recreation. A journalist’s expository accounts of such “sporting” experience, rendered in the trash patois of the bars, apparently passes for the bold and the true.

But this sort of writing is not the truly true and bold language of a balanced discourse, let alone of its grace. It’s a language used for stroking life’s minimal predilections. The Camera should rise above it. Perhaps its editors do not see it. Those who write such language ought to be embarrassed, but seem not to. Those sleazy images and vulgarities no doubt feel “really cool” as they run through the keyboard and on into print. But, young essayists should be warned that language once used cannot be unused and that, badly used, it can turn on the writer. It can tattoo forever the memory, leaving scar-tissue that hurts for a very long time.


Gordon Wickstrom is a Boulder native, navy man in the Philippines, CU grad and Stanford Ph.D., professor of drama, director and sometime actor. He retired home to Boulder in 1991, fishes with his wife Betty, and writes books, essays and columns on the angling life and on theatre. He is the oldest living — in captivity — writer about fishing in English, and a member, for the sake of his obituary, of the Flyfishers’ Club of London.