Kevin Duggan is a senior reporter and columnist for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. He is a Colorado native and grew up in the Denver area. He graduated from Regis High School in 1974. He attended the University of Colorado in Boulder and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English with emphasis in creative writing in 1978. He worked a variety of jobs – although not as a writer – until he took up journalism at Metropolitan State College in Denver. He received a bachelor’s degree in 1990. He worked at the High Timber Times in Conifer, the Denver Post as an intern, the Douglas County Daily News-Press in Castle Rock, the Sentinel Newspapers covering Westminster and Northglenn, and the Jefferson Sentinels in Arvada and Lakewood before landing in Fort Collins in 1996. He has held numerous jobs in the Coloradoan newsroom, including city editor and editorial page editor. He is married with two adult daughters.
It’s been a great 20 year in Fort Collins
Coloradoan: April 22, 2016
Sentimental creatures that we are, people tend to assign special meaning to specific dates.
For me, one of those days is April 15. That’s Tax Day; for most of us, the dreaded day when our federal and state tax returns are due (although not this year or when April 15 falls on a weekend.)
And that’s probably why I remember other events tied to the date.
It’s the day Abraham Lincoln died and the Titanic sank.
Jackie Robinson debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947, breaking baseball’s color barrier.
It’s the day the Boston Marathon was bombed in 2013. In 1955, the mega-corporation that would become McDonald’s started with the opening of a franchised hamburger restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois.
It’s the day my father died.
It’s also the day I started working for the Coloradoan in 1996.
Some of my colleagues were in preschool or elementary school when I started working in Fort Collins. So it’s somewhat unimaginable to them that someone would put 20 years into a single employer or even a single trade, for that matter.
That sounds like a life sentence in prison to them.
It hasn’t been that at all. And 20 years goes by a lot faster than one imagines.
Sure, there have been plenty of personal and professional ups and downs over the years, but I will never regret coming to Fort Collins and working for this paper.
The paper: I still call it that even though the Coloradoan has become so much more.
I came here to cover the city government. I’m still doing that, although I’ve had other jobs between stints focusing on city hall reporting, including city editor, opinion page editor, regional reporter and Larimer County reporter.
And, of course, columnist.
Many people have asked me what was the most important or significant story I’ve done.
That’s hard to say. My work hasn’t been so much about covering big-time breaking news events — disaster, crime and assorted mayhem — as it has been following up on major events. In some cases, for years.
The deadly Spring Creek Flood of 1997 comes to mind as a milestone both in terms of working that night — I was called back to the office to help deal with the chaos — and covering its aftermath.
I’ll never forget walking through the mobile home parks where The Summit housing complex and Creekside Park are now, seeing the devastation and talking to residents as they struggled to pick up the pieces of their lives.
Keeping track of the fallout from the murder conviction of Tim Masters and his eventual exoneration was huge.
So was traveling to Louisiana a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina to cover the distribution of relief funds raised here to small nonprofit organizations helping people deal with the disaster.
Anyway, it’s been a great ride and I’m looking forward to plying the journalism trade here for a few more. (Although not 20, God help me.)
Thanks to readers for your support over the years. You are the reason my colleagues and I do the work we do.
There have been a lot of important stories in the last 20 years. And there are so many more to tell.
How long to keep your child’s art?
Coloradoan: June 9, 2017
Finding one’s head in the trash is rather unsettling.
I knew it was in there. I gave clearance to Lisa to toss a larger-than-life-size bust of me made by our daughter, Kara, when she was in high school. It was one element from an art show intended to display her skills in various media.
Nevertheless, I was surprised to see my face staring back at me when I lifted the lid to the garbage bin in the garage. My mind flashed on topics ranging from my own mortality to the lifespan of art projects created by one’s children.
Among the questions: How long should a Thanksgiving-themed picture of a turkey drawn as an outline of a hand with macaroni representing feathers hang on a refrigerator?
Does the brooding work of a 16-year-old have a longer shelf life than that of a 6-year-old because of the higher quality? Or does the cuteness factor in the younger child’s work trump skill and meaning?
Some people like to hold on to their kids’ art projects indefinitely. And I get that: I’m big on mementos, too.
A painting of a flower or a clay model of a pig in a trash can – yes, I have these things – is a like a time capsule. A remembrance of how things were not so long ago.
But there comes a time to clear the clutter. At some point, the stuff lining bookshelves and mantles disappears from one’s consciousness because it is so familiar.
Its meaning only comes back when one thinks it might be time for it to go. And then, more often than not in my case, it doesn’t go anywhere except a box in the basement that won’t be touched again for years.
The urge to purge at my house is a fallout of acquiring a several things in the wake of my father-in-law's death. What has moved from his house to ours is small given the totality of his stuff, but it’s a lot for us.
So we’ve been trying to toss or recycle as many things as possible. If we don’t reduce our clutter now our daughters will have go through it when we’re gone.
The statue of my head fell into the "OK-to-go" category. It was a clay sculpture finished with a high-gloss spray paint that gave it the appearance of being metal.
Kara was kind in creating the likeness. It definitely looked like me, though with more hair and a smaller double chin than the real deal. The face was smiling; its glasses were on straight.
It sat atop a filing cabinet in our office for more than eight years, gathering dust as it looked toward the door as if in anticipation of someone interesting walking in. Usually, it was just me.
Sometimes it wore a hat, including Kara’s graduation cap from Poudre High School.
Kara didn’t mind us disposing of it. We have many of her creations around the house that we intend to keep.
She did insist we not throw out her sculpture of swirling dancer that, ironically enough, has no head. She really likes that piece.
Kara, who is now a college graduate, continues to produce lovely pieces of art. She paints and does intricate bead work. Her specialty is using wire and beads to create little trees that stand atop rocks.
Lisa felt bad about tossing out my statue. She noted it didn’t really look like me anymore. “I hope you don’t mind getting rid of your head,” she said.
“No, it’s all right,” I said. “I wasn’t using it anyway.”
Fake news should never drive reality
Coloradoan: Nov. 25, 2016
One of my standard lines when speaking to students and community groups about journalism is: "Don't believe everything you read."
It usually gets a laugh from service club members and at least a smirk from students. In the days leading up to the election, I changed it to: "Don't believe anything that you read."
I wasn't talking about reputable newspapers and magazines. I was referring to social media and the flood of nonsense showing up from normally rational people.
Turns out I knew what I was talking about, for a change. Since the election there has been a lot of discussion about the influence "fake news" had on the outcome of the election.
Bogus stories from hoax websites and super-partisan blogs had a lot more likes, shares and comments than legitimate stories. Engagement on fake election content on Facebook "skyrocketed and surpassed that of the content from major news outlets" in the last three months of the campaign, according to an analysis by BuzzFeed News.
The spike in fake-news shares apparently wasn't about just people sharing laughs, a la the open satire of The Onion and the Borowitz Report. Deliberate lies and exaggerations were used to re-enforce worldviews of readers who wanted to believe the worst and make others believe it, too.
Some folks really did believe that Hillary Clinton sold weapons to ISIS and that Donald Trump once said Republicans are the dumbest group of voters in the country. And they still believe it.
Fake news — an oxymoron if there ever was one — comes from many sources. In some cases, it's people sitting around the house making up stuff while raking in thousands of dollars through advertising posted on their sites. Sometimes, it's simply sabotage.
In other cases, it's people reporting what they see even if they don't understand what they are seeing. A photograph on Twitter from Austin, Texas, the day after the election purported to show buses that brought "fake" protesters to an anti-Trump rally.
The message quickly went viral and shot around the country via thousands of shares. Trump himself weighed in on it. But the original Twitter user was mistaken: The buses he saw were attached to a conference and had nothing to do with the protest.
He corrected his mistake, but by then it was too late to rein in the misinformation. The correction received little attention.
Facebook, Google and Twitter say they are working on ways to reduce the spread of misinformation by taking away advertising revenue from disreputable websites.
That's an important step toward helping people stay in touch with reality. But the real responsibility for separating fact from fiction comes down to readers.
First, you have to have a personal commitment to knowing the truth. Then you have to know how to find it.
A study by Stanford University found many teenagers don't know when news is fake. For all of their digital savvy, students cannot distinguish between "sponsored content," as in ads, and straightforward stories on news websites.
Many adults have the same issue. A way around that is to be skeptical of what one reads and to question the sources of information.
Research websites and writers to determine if they are legitimate and offer balanced perspectives. If a site is overtly partisan, fine. But know that, and understand the news you're getting from it could be spinning like a top.
Don't get lured in and caught by click bait. If a headline sounds too outrageous to be true, it probably isn't. If a story is not showing up in multiple places and in mainstream media, there's reason to doubt its authenticity.
And here's my personal bias: Read news sources that have been around a while. In my experience, old-school newspapers are more reliable, balanced and accurate than startup websites that present opinion as news.
Think what you want about a paper's editorial stances. But understand there really is separation between opinion and news sections at newspapers, with news reporting based on facts.
Some say we live in a post-truth world, especially after this election. We can't accept that. If we do, we'll never again be able to believe what we read.
Fort Collins residents seek niche in name game
Coloradoan: Jan. 23, 2000
Who are we, Fort Collins?
Maybe a better question is, what are we?
A couple of weeks ago, after the Sunday Coloradoan had been put to bed and we were waiting for the first papers to come off the press, a bunch of us in the newsroom fell into a late-night discussion on what was the proper name for someone who lives in Fort Collins.
None of us had ever heard a term applied to Fort Collins residents other than that - resident or citizen or some other dull generality.
You got your Denverites, Boulderites, Arvadans, Lakewoodians, Puebloans and Broomfielders, but what about us?
We didn't know.
The conversation quickly spread to other local communities and what their residents could be called.
Some appeared fairly straightforward. Someone from Windsor would be a Windsorite; a Wellington resident may also be known as a Wellingtonian.
Someone from LaPorte would be a LaPortean, we guessed, although it sounds like something you would find in a French restaurant.
Someone from Loveland would be a Lovelander. Someone from Masonville could be a Mason, although one probably would have to go through a secret ritual to get that title, or a Masonite or perhaps a Masonvillian - not the friendliest of terms.
There are Estes Parkers, Red Feather Lakers, Livermorians, Bellvuers and Campionians. Ted's Placers? Why not?
But what about the good people of Fort Collins?
Fort Collinsians? That's rather clumsy. Fort Collinsists is no better.
Fort Collinades? Sounds like an architectural feature.
Fort Collinsites? Fortucians? Collinsaires? Fortans? Collinsoids? Fortoptians?
I don't think so.
I suppose the chamber-of-commerce-approved moniker - Choice City - might offer some possibilities. Choice Citians; Choicers; Choicians; Choice Cuts.
How about the Chosen Ones? Well, that's a bit haughty. Besides, I believe that's been done.
Of course, political gadfly Al Baccili often refers to our town as Chump City when he is railing against the city government for one thing or another.
That would make us all Chumps.
While those on opposite sides of political issues may view each other that way, let's not besmirch the whole town. No thanks.
Besides, the chamber of commerce would want nothing to do with that.
I suppose the name game really doesn't matter. We know who we are, even if we can't be easily labeled.
Perhaps Shakespeare, who was much better at making up words than a bunch of newsroom wags, said it best:
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
Society can change its direction on violence
Coloradoan: May 9, 1999
Benjamin Franklin once wrote, "nothing in this world is certain but death and taxes." Let me humbly add a couple of more certainties to the list:
• After an unusually wet April, it won't be long before we start complaining about how hot and dry the weather is.
• The horrible massacre at Columbine High School will inspire new state and federal laws.
The weather will take care of itself, following nature's course by mixing in surprises with what one would expect for this climate.
The direction of potential legislation is less predictable.
Proposals are likely to range from taking guns away from even law-abiding people to encouraging citizens to arm themselves by lifting restrictions on buying weapons.
Should anything pass, it is likely to be something in the middle, a political compromise, that countless special interest groups have manipulated to fit their agendas.
But I suspect whatever new laws we get will make little difference in reducing the violence in our country and the viciousness that seems to permeate so much of our culture.
That will come from individuals making simple choices and taking small actions.
Change will come from people choosing to not have anything to do with guns, concealed or otherwise, and deciding that a heavily armed society isn't necessarily a safer society.
If people want guns for hunting or self protection, that's their business. But don't all have to go that route.
Change will come from people deciding not to go to the latest blood-and-guts movie, even if Mel Gibson is in it, not buying video games that desensitize children to killing, not listening to music that glorifies crime, greed and hatred.
If the message is mean and offensive, turn in off.
Real life isn't just "Winnie the Pooh" and "Little House on the Prairie," but it doesn't have to be "Natural Born Killers," "Doom," "The Jerry Springer Show" or professional wrestling, either.
Actions and decision like these can make a difference. Just as small shift in a seemingly solid bank of snow starts an avalanche, so can individuals bring about dramatic changes. When the providers of violence as entertainment see that gore and mayhem no longer sells, they'll find something else to produce.
When the market for weaponry dries up, so will the arms dealers.
And perhaps we as a people will think differently about how we live. And we'll carry that thought process over into how we treat our family members and strangers alike.
We can't do anything about the weather - that's determined by forces beyond our control. But we can determine the direction our society takes.
Dads and kids can learn from each other
Coloradoan: June 20, 1999
The rebel stubbornly stood her ground, refusing to move forward.
The authorities, equally as determined to not lose the skirmish, insisted on nothing short of unconditional surrender.
Tension filled the air as the powers-that-be forced the issue in hopes of reach ing a quick settlement. Diplomacy - tough talk said in a kind way - proved ineffective.
Threats of violence followed, but all involved knew that in the end that probably wouldn't work.
A standoff in the Balkans near a town with an unpronounceable name? No, a family hike at Horsetooth Mountain Park.
The crisis erupted when my daughter, who was sent to the back of our little marching column for saying mean things to her sister, decided that, if she couldn't lead, she wasn't going anywhere.
And of course, there was no way that I would do as she wished and leave her alone half way up the trail.
Why is there never a NATO peacekeeper around when you need one?
She finally backed down. I gently but firmly took her by the wrist - she would not take my hand - and we walked side by side wherever the trail allowed. I didn't yell and she stopped crying.
Peace in our time - but for how long?
Was this a small example of what is to come as my daughters get older and realize that their daddy is far from all-wise and all-powerful?
Friends with kids just a few years older than mine have been telling me what to expect. Their children treat them as if they are the dumbest creatures to ever walk the earth.
It's a tough time to be a dad. (Yes, all you mothers out there, I know things are tough - maybe even tougher - on you. But this is Father's Day after all, so let me wallow in some male angst for a while. It goes well with the new socks.)
Every day fathers face the challenge of how to deal with their children. We struggle to know what is the best way to handle situations revolving around school, sports, friends and life in general.
The questions nag: Am I too hard on them, too critical? Or am I too soft? Should I be tougher, a benevolent dictator who imposes his will because I know what's best, even if I don't?
Will what I do today help them become productive, happy members of society or add to the emotional baggage that in time may turn them into wrecks?
So what to do? Lead by example, I suppose. Show them the value of patience and kindness. Show them how to respect others, and the importance of sticking to their principles.
And above all, show them how to love. In doing so, perhaps we fathers will find the answers we seek.
Insight requires inky fingers
Coloradoan: April 16, 2000
Reading the newspaper isn't what it used to be.
At my house, what once was a quiet morning ritual has become a lot more complicated. Instead of just sipping my coffee and occasionally snorting as I turn the pages and get ink on my fingertips, I end up doing a lot of talking.
My daughters, ages 9 and 7, are getting to be good little readers. They often sit at the breakfast table, merrily munching away on Sugar Coated Gut Bombs or something, and glancing over at what I'm reading.
They ask about what's going on in photographs, what The Thing - meaning the Dow - did yesterday and the believability of the weather forecast.
Sometimes they grab a section of the paper and peruse it themselves. They haltingly read aloud the headlines and lead paragraphs, getting most of the words correct, but often following up with, "What does that mean?"
I drone on for a while - I'm not particularly spunky in the morning until the coffee kicks in - until they lose patience and ask follow-up questions, usually along the line of "Why?" I try to explain things in terms they can understand, but it's a challenge to put events such as Ugandan massacres, papal visits to the Middle East and Columbine into neat packages. Explaining sports is easier - someone won, someone lost, that's it. Explaining fashion is a lost cause.
The explanations are followed by commentary. The girls tell me what they think on any given issue.
The Elian Gonzalez affair has spurred opinions ranging from "He ought to be home with his daddy" to "He should decide. Even if he were 2 years old, he should decide."
When I discoursed on the politics of it all, about the issue of growing up under communism vs. living in a free society and the influence of Cuban-Americans in Florida, they were unimpressed. They wondered why the United States just didn't work this out with Cuba.
"We don't get along with Cuba," I said, "haven't for 40 years."
"Oh, fiddle faddle," came the response. "It's about time we did."
Unlike surfing the Internet for news - usually done in disjointed solitude - or having a pretty talking head tell you what's happening in the world, papers are communal.
Information, opinion, entertainment - it's all right there to share.
Newspapers supposedly are on their way out, soon to be replaced by computer screens you can fold up and stick in your pocket. Someday, the news you choose to read will be downloaded with the click of a button.
I hope that doesn't happen soon, and not just because I'm in the print business. I think it could hurt us as a society.
Understanding does not come from isolation. It comes from learning, discussing and getting ink on your fingers.
Santa offers up some rhyming wisdom on Trump
Coloradoan: Dec. 25, 2016
'Twas the morning of Christmas, when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even my spouse;
The hour was quite early, well before dawn,
Although the paper was already out on the lawn.
I opened the front door with the greatest of care,
Went outside and coughed in the cold air.
I picked up the paper, which was unusually plump
And read the headlines on President-elect Trump;
About how so many are put off by his bad form,
And how he responded in the latest Twitter storm.
When what to my bleary eyes did a appear,
But a shiny red semi all tricked out with gear.
The driver wore a white beard so long and thick,
I knew in a moment it was must be Saint Nick.
"Nice ride, Santa," I said to the jolly old elf,
"You're running late," I muttered to myself;
Santa grinned and said, "Oh, cut your jive."
"You know traffic is always bad on I-25."
He whirled around the truck and opened the back,
And pulled out a gigantic overstuffed sack;
In a flash he was off to make many a delivery,
While I just stood there amazed and all shivery;
Just as quickly Santa returned empty-handed,
And back in the big rig's driver's seat he landed;
He glanced my way and asked, "Whatcha reading?"
I stammered out an answer, hardly breathing.
"The world's such a mess, I mean really a dump,
"And now it must deal with this guy named Trump;
"He won the election, that much is clear,
"But it's hard to know what he holds dear;
"Does he mean what he says, and he sure says a lot,
"Or is he just having fun by stirring the pot?
"What will happen as his clan takes power?
"Some folks fear this is our darkest hour."
Santa nodded slowly and put the red semi in gear'
Gave a laugh and shouted so that I could hear;
"Change is a constant, as so many have said,
"Take a look at what has happened to my sled;
"The future is long, and often looks scary,
"But time has a way of making things less hairy;
"He's earned his shot, give him some time,
"Checks and balances should keep him in line;
"And if this guy turns out to be a complete chump,
"Then in four years, voters can give him a bump;
"Judge people by actions, not just what they've said,
"And quit obsessing about who's blue and who's red;
"Work for the common good, do the best that you can,
"Take care of each other, your republic will stand."
And Santa called out as the red rig roared from view,
"Merry Christmas, folks, and peace to all of you."
(With apologies to Clement C. Moore.)
Rev. Tutu nailed it: Humanity starts here
Coloradoan: April 11, 2003
A remarkable event took place in Fort Collins on Tuesday night.
The Most Rev. Desmond M. Tutu made an inspiring presentation at Moby Arena as part of the Bridges to the Future series sponsored by Colorado State University and the University of Denver.
Organizers say the purpose of the yearlong series is to engage state residents in a dialogue about "American history and values in light of Sept. 11."
This was the first Bridges to the Future event I've attended. I couldn't resist seeing Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for pursuing racial justice in South Africa.
The whole family went, along with some friends. We arrived early enough to get good seats in the bleachers, giving us a close view of the stage and the floor.
The theme of Tutu's speech was interdependence, how all people are connected and need one another. Tapping into a reservoir of energy that belied his age, the good archbishop delivered a sermon-like speech calling on us to not just respect but revere all human beings. All people, Tutu reminded us, are made in God's image.
Perhaps out of respect - or maybe it was discomfort about hearing so much talk of God in a secular setting - the audience was quiet through the first part of the presentation. But it quickly warmed to statements such as "Anything war can do, peace can do better," and "An enemy is a friend waiting to be made."
Tutu used plenty of humor to get his points across. No one gets away with telling God jokes like a preacher.
As I sat there before and during Tutu's speech, I noted many familiar faces in the audience. Colleagues from the Coloradoan and other media prowled the floor. I saw two dozen or more CSU administrators, faculty, staff and students I've met during the seven years I've worked at this newspaper.
Over there was my children's former piano teacher. Near the stage was one of my best friends from high school, a longtime Fort Collins resident whom I rarely see.
Over there was a former mayor, over there a former editorial board member, and over there a frequent contributor to our opinion page.
It occurred to me that here was my community - or at least part of it - in the same room, getting connected by one man's message about respecting humanity and working for peace.
And I wondered if each of us could take that message and spread it to the greater communities that we touch, what a difference it could make in the world.
After the presentation, we slowly moved out of the arena and into the cool night air. On the way out, I said hello to a Catholic nun who works on local social issues and shook hands with a longtime local peace activist.
One of my daughters grumbled, "You know too many people."
I answered, "I don't think so."
Pets and Halloween costumes don't go together
Coloradoan: Oct. 18, 2012
"Every party needs a pooper and that's why we invited you."
I hear this little ditty from time to time from certain highly influential people in my life. It rings out like bells whenever I slip too deep into curmudgeon mode.
It's true, I suppose. Lately I seem to be saying "Bah! Humbug!" about things not related to Christmas a lot more often.
The presidential debates come to mind; so do commercials that imply my life would be soooo much better if only I owned a certain automobile or drank a specific type of beer. Well, here we go again.
The latest thing to rattle my sense of righteous indignation is a trend that is as disturbing as it is insidious. It's another example of our society's continuing slide into a moral morass.
I speak, of course, about dressing pets in costumes for Halloween or other events.
Sure, it's cute and kind of funny to dress Brutus the bulldog in a tutu or Fluffy the tabby kitten as Captain Jack Sparrow, funky hat and all. People laugh at the sight and it makes for awesome YouTube videos.
But come on, now. Why would you submit a beloved companion to that type of humiliation? What did it ever do to you, I mean, other than mess in the corner and chew up your good shoes?
Is this a revenge thing? Well, it's just wrong.
How do you think they feel (and, yes, I do believe pets have emotions) about being forced to do something wholly unnatural such as putting on clothes?
They're animals; nature gave them what they need to survive. They don't need to put on coats, capes and boots.
They don't want to look like Batman. They don't want to wear tiaras and glitter.
In recent weeks this and other fine publications have run stories highlighting pet-dressing and other types of odd behavior, including painting stripes on dogs to make them look like tigers.
I know my old dog wouldn't go for that kind of thing. He would be deeply embarrassed and would lick off that junk as fast as it went on.
He has his pride, even in his dotage and failing health. I would be ashamed to increase his discomfort.
You wouldn't dress up your children for fun, would you? (Wait a minute — I guess you would, and so did I once upon a time. But not after they reached a certain age.)
But you wouldn't dress your grandpa or grandma for laughs: Why do it to your dog or cat?
Change your ways, oh ye who have wandered from the path of good taste, change your ways.
Do it for the animals.
Kevin Duggan is a Coloradoan senior reporter. He can be reached by phone at (970) 224-7744. Send e-mail to KevinDuggan@coloradoan.com.