“The moral of the story is: Don’t turn away from ideas, people or concepts that are different, unique, nontraditional or alternative. Embrace them, because many times the answers to life’s deeper questions turn out to reside there.”
— Stewart Sallo, Publisher/owner, Boulder Weekly
These stories are a perfect example of why it is so great to be a news organization in Boulder County. When it comes to determining what subjects are a good fit for BW readers, the only consideration is whether or not the subject will be of interest to them. And in Boulder County, where we know our readers are well-educated, well-traveled, curious about the world, and always interested in important national and international issues, that means there is no story, if well-done and groundbreaking, that our readers won’t appreciate.
To put it simply, these two stories launched Boulder Weekly’s reputation as a national news breaking organization. By 5 p.m. on April 20, 1995, the BW newsroom had been inundated by interview requests from dozens of the nation’s largest news organizations including Time, Newsweek and U.S. News. Even the FBI was grilling the staff in an effort to gain access to our sources and determine how we could have written what we did when we did. Why the big fuss?
“We were the first paper in the United States to link the Oklahoma City bombing to the federal government’s actions at Waco and the anti-government movement that had formed nationally in response to the government’s controversial actions against Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge a few years earlier,” says Editor Joel Dyer.
“We were able to break our story and go to press on April 19, the same day that Tim McVeigh blew up the Murrah building, because we had been working on the story for weeks with sources from within the movement, primary among them a Longmont man named Ron Cole who had been named the new leader of the Branch Davidians by a number of David Koresh’s former followers who had survived Waco.”
During interviews, Cole warned that tensions arising from the Waco raid were building in patriot and militia groups across the country. He told BW reporter Wayne Laugesen he suspected someone might attempt to retaliate against the government for the deaths at Waco.
“Cole had been telling us that he believed such an attack was going to occur in retaliation for Waco and that it could likely be on April 19, the second anniversary of the fire,” recalls Dyer. “By the end of the day on April 20, we knew that we were miles ahead of the rest of the national news media when it came to both the Oklahoma City bombing and the rise of the anti-government movement, and we stayed ahead for years. These two stories and the ones that followed ultimately resulted in me being able to write my first book, and that led to me being asked to testify at Tim McVeigh’s trial. It was really good work for a news organization of any size, but it was amazing work for a small, relatively new alternative weekly in a market the size of Boulder. It was a proud moment for everyone at the paper, and it no doubt shaped what the Weekly has become.”
These articles launched the paper into a series of groundbreaking stories on the growing anti-government movement in the United States, which ultimately led to Boulder Weekly’s work being featured on the Today show, NBC, CBS and ABC news, 48 Hours, Nightline and many other news programs.
“I remember the impact that these articles had on every member of our editorial staff,” says Dyer. “I think they were the first stories that made us believe that we could do anything if we put our heart and minds into it 100 percent and worked as a team. These were the stories that truly opened the door to the many groundbreaking national stories that the Weekly has broken over the last 15 years.”