a “literary startup”

I like how Mary Z. Fuka described yesterday’s John Fleck 2.0 launch party – I’m a “literary startup“. I need a clever name with some sort of capital letter in the middle or something. And a logo. I need a logo, right?

Nicole Perez, Robert Browman, the desks next to mine, Dec. 31, 2014

Nicole Perez, Robert Browman, the desks next to mine, Dec. 31, 2014

This morning, the day after I finished up the last stories of a 30-plus year career in daily journalism, feels oddly normal – checking the drought monitor, reservoir levels at Elephant Butte, the latest storm forecast. But I will so very much miss this thing you see to the right.

I had an old can of Spam on my desk at the Albuquerque Journal, which arrived some years ago in some sort of ridiculous press kit trying to get our attention regarding something ridiculous. I’ve no memory of the thing we never covered, but I saved the Spam.

It was, the joke went, my emergency supply. If the shit ever really went down – nuclear war, societal collapse – the Spam would buy me one more day of journalism. It is well past its 2007 “best used by” date, but when we’re talking Armageddon and certain death anyway, so what if the Spam’s a little old?

That the pull of what I’m doing now – writing a book, devoting my whole brain to learning and thinking about the Colorado River – was strong enough to pull me away from those people and that endeavor should tell you a great deal about how excited I am about my new project. Because I love these people – the two in this picture and so many more, the shared adventure of making a newspaper every day. Every day! So hard to leave that.

I left the Spam with Nicole with the confidence that, when the balloon goes up, she’ll be there for you.


  1. Congratulations, John! I’ve greatly enjoyed your stories over the years; you have done a first-rate job of keeping your readers informed. The pen–or computer–really is mightier than the sword.

    I, too, am getting ready to retire after 25 years of teaching middle school. It’s an interesting feeling to leave the known and move on.


  2. John: Not feeling your routine has changed much is a good sign you are on the right path.

    Congrats on a fine career, and best of wishes on your (ballsy) new one. I’m sure it will be just as successful.

  3. I’ll miss seeing your articles in the Journal when I’m visiting NM, but look forward to reading the book.

    And clearly the name of your startup should be watr.

  4. John, So many memories, interviews, visits, stories. You’re what a reporter should be. Best of luck and maybe we’ll meet up at Altura Park someday soon. — Rod

  5. I’m happy for you, but the entire water community is going to miss you. Your reporting has been very
    helpful in creating civil society around water in the state. Maybe when you “finish” the Colorado, you’ll come back to the Pecos, the Rio Grande, the Gila, and the Canadian? My very best wishes, Denise

  6. Yes, congratulations…always good to eventually move on. So you know, in a recent conversation with Senator Udall, he cited your articles as making a major contribution to helping the public understand the water issues we now face in NM. You will be missed.

  7. Congratulations, John. You had become the primary reason I kept my Journal subscription for so long! I will miss your writing 🙁

  8. John, It won’t be the same not seeing your frequent byline in the Journal over stories that are always solid, readable, and important. The Journal was so lucky to have you. Thanks for everything you have done for journalism and science journalism in Albuquerque. Will look forward to hearing more about your Colorado River research and project.

  9. i sure hope someone else will be able to continue reporting on the water issues as it seems almost a turning point in the whole system. that if we lose the momentum recently gained on water conservation and other alternatves that the danger is it will all fall back into “Business as Usual”.

    is there an emeritus columnist classification where you can poke a few articles their way once in a while? : )

    congratulations on finding a focus for the next few years. good luck and many well wishes. i look forwards to reading your book and your other writings.

  10. Congratulations on the decision to focus on a “mission” to tell an even more in depth story on the Colorado River system than what newspaper journalism allows. Thanks for all the kind words you wrote about the work done by the National Weather Service in ABQ and the NM Drought Monitor Work Group. Your researched and thoughtful descriptions on drought, snowpack, and NM climate not only educated the public, but allowed members of the water community to better understand all the pieces that go into the water supply process.

  11. John — was this planned? Did you jump? pushed? what’s the difference with what you’ll do now? Do you care about making money? Something else?

    What if they LET you write an emeritus column — 1x/week or month — would you? on what?

  12. David – Very much planned. No push, I jumped. Too hard to try to do daily newspaper journalism (which I loved, but took tremendous brain share) while trying to think deeply for my book. I’ve got a modest faculty appointment in UNM’s Water Resources Program that provides a nice home/platform. Not sure what happens after the book’s done, I’m making this up as I go. 🙂

    I’m not going to try to write emeritus columns or anything for now. I really need to de-escalate from the real time thinking that goes into daily journalism. It forces a certain style of thinking – not just “what is this thing I’m trying to understand,”, but “what is the story I can tell about this thing I’m trying to understand”. They overlap, but they’re different. I plan to keep blogging here as I have been on my Colorado River work (which I realize is a bit of a contradiction re de-escalation), and I may do some New Mexico water blogging here. Did I mention I’m making this up as I go? 🙂

  13. Oh my! How exciting for you, John. I support you taking the plunge. It will all work out as it should. Looking forward to the book, but I’ll miss your columns.

  14. Many, many congratulations on beginning this new phase of your life–while taking advantage of acquired knowledge! That is a very good set of strategies. Maybe my experience has some similarities. I began my book on Florida water while still working full time but wrapped it up after leaving work. There is only so much attention span available. Looking forward very much to learning more as your serious writing on the book intensifies. Best wishes as your proceed.

  15. Thirty years! Amazing! Anxiously awaiting the book. Your writing will greatly be missed by this wet-climate denizen who misses the New Mexico sunshine. You’re one of the NM WaterWonks whose voice really matters and the best (by far) water-climate journalist around!

  16. John – at h2oradio.org we have always valued your ABQJ articles and insights. Thank you so much and we look forward to your future!

  17. Congratulations, John!
    Your “500-600 words/week for a naive audience” was an invaluable contribution to New Mexico. I hope the journal has a plan to continue front-page environmental reporting.

    Can you recommend any good blogs coming out of the WRP at unm?

    Looking forward to a second John Fleck book on my bookshelf .

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