By Kevin Wilson
CNJ STAFF WRITER
Nearly 20 years ago, Mike Jensen took on a challenge he didn’t want or expect.
It was an average Friday — April 30, 1994 — when a woman walked into Jensen’s office at the Uinta County Herald in Evanston, Wyo., locked the door and pulled out a .22-caliber handgun.
She told the Herald’s publisher the media in general had ruined her life, and she wanted him to call a major newspaper in Colorado to fix it.
About 20 minutes in, Jensen persuaded her to give up the gun, with the help of a Colorado editor he called to placate her. He had a few drinks later that night to calm down, and soon after acquired a concealed carry permit that he never needed to use.
“Thank the good Lord; it could have been far worse,” Jensen said. “I could have been dead. She could have been dead.
“It’s one of those experiences you wish upon no one.”
Other challenges, Jensen relishes, the current one being his new position as publisher of Clovis Media Inc., which operates the Clovis News Journal, Portales News-Tribune and Quay County Sun. Jensen, 54, succeeds Ray Sullivan, who retired March 14 after nearly 14 years in Clovis.
Jensen and wife Jodi have three children — Matt, Colt and McKenna — and a granddaughter, Alexis.
Born in Logan, Utah, but a native of Provo, Jensen said he was born into the job. His father was a newspaper publisher and executive, and childhood to adulthood took him from carrier to mailroom worker to ad sales associate to general manager to publisher throughout Wyoming, with four years in South Dakota.
“I think all those experiences … gave me a greater appreciation for the operation of the newspaper as a whole,” said Jensen, who wrote an outdoor sports column while he was an ad associate at the Provo Daily Herald. “A lot of components come together, but at the end of the day it’s one quality product for the readers who subscribe.”
He had two stints as publisher with Uinta, the most recent from 2003 to last summer, when he took a practice run at retiring for six months before transitioning to New Mexico.
It was in Evanston where his biggest scare happened, but also some of his biggest successes. He started in 1990 as advertising director, was the publisher within two years, and by 1997 had grown the operation into a three-paper publication with purchases of the Bridger Valley Pioneer and Kemmerer Gazette.
He served as the president of the chamber of commerce there, and was named the 1993 business person of the year by the organization.
“He’s a go-getter,” said Kae Ellis, production manager at Uinta County and a longtime friend. “He’s just always been oriented towards building the business. He’s really hands-on, knows just about every area.”
In 1999, Jensen transferred to a publisher’s position in Brookings, S.D., but found he missed Wyoming, and four years later took an opportunity at his former position.
When he left Wyoming at the end of last year, he resigned his chairmanship in Wyoming Trout Unlimited, though he remains a lifetime member of the national organization and will still produce Wyoming’s quarterly Trout Tale newsletter through the year while a replacement is found.
Finding the trout spots is one of two challenges Jensen sees in the move to the Land of Enchantment. The other is doing what he can to improve the local papers before he eventually retires. He is taking on a trio of newspapers with larger circulations than he ever had in Wyoming, but all three are still considered small-town papers.
“It is a cool business,” Jensen said. “I particularly love the (aspects) of small-town community journalism. I would not want to be a metro daily right now. I think without a doubt, first and foremost, small-town community journalism is the future of the newspaper industry.
“We’ve seen a lot of metro dailies close their doors. I could not believe it when I heard the Rocky Mountain News shut their doors. The small-town community journalism, those are the ones that are going to be able to survive.”
Jensen said he’s not trying to compete with USA Today or the Albuquerque Journal, because they’re not going to frequently cover a city council or commission or include a note that an eastern New Mexico youth became an Eagle Scout, just like he did in the early ’70s.
“I take the role of the newspaper very seriously,” Jensen said. “We’re going to have some news coverage that’s not going to make everybody happy, but that’s our job.”
One challenge he has appreciated since arriving in January — he shadowed Sullivan for a few months — is the local cuisine.
“The Mexican food here is phenomenal,” Jensen said. “The green chile is off the charts.”