Farewell, Littleton: After four years, reporter David Gilbert moves on

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After the four best years of my life, I am leaving my job as the reporter for the Littleton Independent. Robert Tann, an intelligent and thoughtful journalist, will take my place at this nearly 140-year-old newspaper.

I have accepted a position as a statewide reporter for this newspaper's co-owner, The Colorado Sun — a dream job. I adore Colorado, and I am thrilled at the opportunity to tell the stories of our beautiful state and the challenges it faces.

But I am also leaving something of a dream job. Being a local reporter means you get to learn the soul of a community with a richness and depth few others experience.

My job has been to dig deeper, to find out more about the people and decisions that impact this community.

In search of those answers, I have spent time in many places: City council chambers. Small businesses. Festivals. Food banks. Crime scenes. Homeless camps. Courtrooms. Classrooms. Hospital rooms. Living rooms.

I wish everyone could have the experiences I have had, though I have done my best to convey them to you: Meeting families raising children in motel rooms. Recording the memories of veterans who lost brothers and sisters on battlefields or to suicide. Grilling people in power on why and how they reached their decisions.

Littleton is at its best when we lift up our neighbors. I think of the drivers at Nourish Meals on Wheels, who deliver good food and the joy of connection to lonely seniors. I think of the cooks and servers of Break Bread or GraceFull Cafe, inviting the weary and forgotten to sit down for a meal in dignity and comfort. I think of the volunteers at the Littleton Immigrant Resources Center who teach civics and English to those striving for citizenship. I think of the organizers of Western Welcome Week or the Fire Muster, who work all year to renew the bonds of community.

Littleton is at its worst, however, when we allow the politics of cruelty and division to drive wedges between neighbors. When we assume our neighbors are driven by malice or stupidity, or that they don't deserve to be here.

But I assure you, the good far outweighs the bad. Littleton is a generous, friendly community. The vast majority of your neighbors are doing the best they can every day.

We live in a time when we are encouraged by cynical grifters to see each other as good or evil, to assume the worst about others, to see nefarious conspiracies in our midst.

Many people around you are struggling. You do not know who is going through a painful divorce, who just lost their job, who is enduring mental illness, or who is grieving the death of a loved one. The pandemic has pushed many people to their limits, though they do their best to put on a brave face and soldier on.

Too many of us seldom interact with our neighbors except from behind a keyboard or steering wheel, where we feel enabled to vent our frustrations about our lives and our world on each other from a position of anonymity.

I beg you, give each other some grace.

Writing a decent news story is a bit like writing a lab report: You start with a question, form a hypothesis, gather data, reach a conclusion, and present your findings for peer review. Like a lab report, you must begin without preconceived notions. You must be open to whatever the answers to your questions may be.

I hope that in getting to know this community, the community has also gotten to know me. I hope people see that as a journalist, I am not trying to manipulate anyone. I am not trying to peddle fear or stir up unnecessary outrage. I care about this community as much as you do.

I am not a unique reporter. The vast majority of my colleagues are like me. They endure low pay, long hours, and — too often — derision and scorn because they care about doing their jobs well.

Did I cover every issue I wanted to? Not even close. There are so many stories I didn't get to. Emails I overlooked. Phone calls I neglected to return. There's enough news in Littleton for a half-dozen reporters. Like me, Robert will do his best to triage the many stories that deserve attention and scrutiny.

That means the rest is up to you. Talk to each other. Ask questions and be open to the answers. Realize that your assumptions, or the rumors you read on Nextdoor or Facebook, may not be the whole story.

Take care of yourselves and each other. And thanks for everything.

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