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Lobato retires after 44 years in journalism

Posted: Friday, Jan 4th, 2013

Photo by Jennifer Alonzo Lobato holds her retirement cake for a quick photo before her reception.

Editor celebrates career at retirement reception Friday

MONTE VISTA — Sylvia Lobato was honored at her retirement reception Dec. 28 at Valley Publishing in Monte Vista.

She has served as the editor for Valley Publishing for six years, but has devoted nearly 43 of her 69 years to her career in journalism.

As a young girl, she received awards for her poetry and prose, but she never would have guessed that a mutilated horse would set her on her path to a career in journalism.

The story of Snippy, the mysteriously decapitated horse set Nellie Lewis the owner of the horse, to looking for her own replacement at the Pueblo Chieftain. Lewis had not broken the horse story herself — AP had picked it up — and needed to devote time to the notoriety the horse’s death brought with it.

Lewis suggested that Lobato take her place as the San Luis Valley correspondent for the paper. She took the job, and realized after a couple of years that she needed to study journalism in college.

While pursuing a degree in journalism from Adams State College, Lobato became the news director at the South Coloradan. Just after her studies were complete, she was invited to work at the Valley Courier for a few weeks while the society editor was away for vacation. She said, “They must have liked my work,” so they offered her a job as a reporter.

She was hired by Francis “Doc” Kirby, who told her, “Every d—n thing you learned in those text books is not going to work here. This is the real world.” She soon found out that he was right.

During her journalism career, Lobato has covered a number of important stories, but none has impacted her more than the death and aftermath of Gilbert Rivera. She has held a strong suspicion on who killed Rivera, but the killer or killers have never been captured.

Her reporting career has even occasionally put her in the path of danger.

Once she was working on a story involving a local police situation when she suspects that one of those involved decided to send her a message by throwing Molotov Cocktail through the window of her home.

Still, she says, “I never had enough of investigative reporting.”

She continued at The Courier, and then took a job with Porter-Staby Publishing Co. in Frisco, Colo. After some eight years and the death of her first grandchild, the decision was made to return to Alamosa.

After several years on the night desk at The Courier, she took the job as editor at Valley Publishing in 2006, and served as a strong and caring voice for the local community through her reporting and her weekly column, The Native Writes.

Publisher Jennifer Alonzo, says, ““Sylvia has taught me so much about journalism; she’s been a mentor to me in many ways. We’re really going to miss having her sense of humor in the office, but know that she deserves retirement.”

Many others who have had the pleasure of working with her over the years came to her retirement reception to thank her and to wish her well on all of her future endeavors. Alonzo says, “She needs to time to rest, relax and enjoy life without the stress of deadlines. We wish her the best of luck!”

Lobato says that she has no intention of settling down, and will instead take time to work on “a couple books, and some freelancing.” Much of her time will be spent with her ailing husband.

In all of her future pursuits, Lobato knows that she will take with her the lessons she has learned from her years in journalism.

From the beginning she has taken every opportunity presented to learn and grow as a journalist.

“Sylvia has been a journalist’s journalist her entire newspaper career,” said Keith Cerny, publisher of the Valley Courier and a division manager for News Media Corporation. “We appreciate her dedication to her job both when she worked as a reporter in Alamosa and while serving as editor of our six weekly newspapers.”

As a journalist, Lobato says that she has become a “much more aware person, a much more aware voter and a much more aware citizen.”

She has learned to get along with everyone, and is delighted that journalism was a family tradition, though her sons have gone on to greater things.

All three of her sons were editors of their high school newspaper. Their teacher attended the Friday reception.

Now, going into her next adventure, she plans to continue to help people in the area and support the community she loves. She will continue to write for the local newspapers and hopes to hear from her readers.

Toni Steffens-Steward will take over as the editor for Valley Publishing in 2013.

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