This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The year was 1977, and I had been working at The Salt Lake Tribune for just a few weeks. I carried the title of "copy boy," and my job description was simple: Do whatever you are told to do.
Business Editor Bob Woody was especially good at telling me what to do. "Take a story from Rolly," commanded Woody. He might have been clenching a cigar stub at the time. I can't be sure.
"Rolly" was Paul Rolly, assistant business editor, on assignment in St. George gathering financial news and feature stories.
I sat down, rolled the paper into the IBM Selectric and picked up the phone. Rolly, whom I had never spoken with before, gave me the "slug," or the name of the story, and started talking.
As he slowly dictated the lead, carefully choosing each word, it became apparent that Rolly was not reading a story he already had written. He was composing in his head as he talked. He would stop on a noun, weighing whether to add an adjective, and then move on, weaving the narrative threads, adding quotes and voices. I imagined him in a phone booth, which is probably where he was.
Only once or twice did he ask me to go back and change a word. We finished in about 20 minutes as he concocted a killer ending. He told me to read it back to him. I'm sure because he didn't trust the new kid and wanted it right. Then he was off to the next interview.
Rolly is a born storyteller, a natural inquirer and listener. Through the years, I've seen him at 8:30 in the morning, sitting at his desk, phone plastered to his ear. And I've seen him at 5 in the afternoon that same day, in exactly the same position.
In 1991, after years of reporting and editing covering governors, lawmakers, business leaders and people from every walk of life he became a columnist. For 20 years, he has written three to four columns a week, a brutal pace that he seems to enjoy. In all that time, Rolly never has missed a column, and that includes vacations.
A few years ago, Rolly was seriously ill and in the hospital. He called me and said he would be a little late with his column. I told him he shouldn't write a column, that he needed to take some time off. Two hours later, his wife, former Tribune reporter Dawn House, called me to say that Paul had just emailed me his column. And it was a damn good piece, too good, apparently, for Rolly to keep to himself for a few more days.
On Wednesday night, at the Gallivan Center amphitheater in downtown Salt Lake City, we turn the tables on Paul Rolly. The Tribune's Jennifer Napier-Pearce will interview him and once again the stories will flow. Rolly will tell us, for instance, about a Utah first lady who came to his rescue during a European trade mission, about the time he scooped the LDS Church-owned Deseret News on a major Mormon story, and about his favorite column one he actually never wrote.
Also on tap will be some familiar faces, who have felt the heat of Rolly's scrutiny and now will get the chance to return the favor. Among the roasters: Gayle Ruzicka, head of Utah's conservative Eagle Forum; House Speaker Greg Hughes; state Sens. Curt Bramble and Jim Dabakis; and Rolly's longtime chum, former Salt Lake County Councilman Randy Horiuchi.
And there will be a special guest: JoAnn Jacobsen-Wells, Rolly's former column partner and alter ego.
You all are invited. Reserved seats have been claimed by our new members of sltrib.com (thank you!) and print subscribers (thank you, too!), but there's plenty of room with seating on the terraces around the stage.
It should be a lovely, jolly evening, a celebration of a great journalist and a good guy.
Terry Orme is The Tribune's editor and publisher. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rolly, recollections, roasting
Join us Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Gallivan Center for "Paul Rolly: Recollections and Roasting." Admission is free. Reserved seats have been claimed but there will be plenty of room at the terraced amphitheater.