By Phil Riske | Senior Reporter/Writer
With only small-town reporting under my belt at the time, I took a radio news job at KKAM in Pueblo, Colo., a steel town called “The Pittsburg of the West.”
It was also where an arm of the Denver mafia was organized.
In my first opportunity for investigative reporting, I looked into a rumor a Pueblo County commissioner, who also was the anchorman for the local TV news (talk about a conflict of interest), had paved the road to his house, including his driveway, though diversion of county funds.
I went to the courthouse to check pertinent records (There was no internet then.). As I was looking through documents, up walks Mr. Commissioner, who asked what I was doing. Some courthouse employee obviously tipped him off that I was there and what I was checking.
Before I could answer, he said, and I’m paraphrasing: I hear you have a nice little family here in Pueblo, and I hope you and they will stay safe in our city.
He walked away.
I could only take his remarks as a threat against our lives, and for days went back and forth in my mind as to what to do.
Do I proceed with the story? Do I forget about it? Do we get the hell out of Dodge? I was aware journalists are supposed to ignore threats made to kill stories.
It was apparent I would not be welcomed again in the courthouse, so my story wasn’t going to get out at that point.
I wondered if Mr. TV Anchorman was a member of Cosa Nostra. I assumed he probably was. I had read where Mafia-types don’t murder reporters, but how would I know if that were true.
Long story short, I decided to take my family and career elsewhere.
I have wondered if I would have acted differently in my 40th year in journalism. Were I the only one threatened now, I would tell the one with the threat to go screw himself. If Mr. Threat were after my family, I would make sure they were protected, and tell him to go screw himself a second time.
If the family really were in danger, I would run like a scared rabbit.
This writing was prompted by the loss of all journalists gunned down — those reporters who never had a chance to run.