Don Rogers: Taking on Voldemort
Vail CO, Colorado
The boxes remain unpacked in the office, paper piles and newspaper copies scattered all over, a formidable list of phone calls to return, e-mails to answer.
Three weeks into this and I’m climbing a mountain of a dune in a sandstorm.
My apologies if I haven’t gotten back to you yet. I will. I will. Step by step, inch by inch, I’m making progress, catching up.
Any day now I’ll push out of the whitewater and get ahead of this wave, I swear. Let’s just get through the elections, annual budgeting season, personnel moves, learning and relearning a bunch of technical tasks I’ve managed to forget these past nine months.
Oh, and there’s that matter of squaring up to our new daily competition.
Newspapers have this unwritten rule about not naming the other guys. If you don’t use their name, maybe they don’t exist. Maybe no one would know they were there if you didn’t tell them. Or, gasp, if you did utter their name, they’d automatically gain a bunch of readers, viewers or listeners.
The really old-school editors and publishers used to have laws about never acknowledging the existence of a radio station, and later, TV. Somehow the secret managed to get out.
I feel like I’m in a Harry Potter novel. You know, when Harry says the villain’s name and everyone around him covers their ears and shrinks back in mortal fear at the mere name.
The crazy uncle at the other paper does the same thing with us. He’ll take his regular potshots and use every other appellation but our real, actual name. What, Voldemort’s hundreds of readers won’t know that the Vail Daily exists if only you can avoid uttering our name?
Oh, I’m doing it too. We cleave to the same superstition about recognizing the other paper. I like Voldemort, since it comes off the tongue like “Mountaineer” with “Vail” in front. Oops, did I say that out loud? I’m probably in big trouble now. Once my colleagues peel their hands off their ears.
Yes, I see that a bit has changed since I left and came back. But I’ve worked against a competing daily for most of my career, so this is back to “normal” in a way.
The Daily Trail had a head of steam when I started with the Vail Daily the first time, in 1999. After their demise, we worked in the newsroom as if we had competition, and frankly, I pretty much expected it at any time. Now it’s here again.
To butcher the Sam Clemen’s line, rumors of newspapering’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Especially here, where survey after survey shows nine out of 10 people read the Vail Daily. Even the occasional Republican.
This is a rich environment for a paper. The community reads and thinks more than most other places; well, more than almost any other place. Your interest primarily is what makes my job the best in journalism, if perhaps also among the busiest at the moment.
You might have noticed some of the recent changes we’ve made. A couple of weeks ago, we moved the business section into the front part of the paper with an emphasis on local business. We are running Town Talk on open facing pages, and opening more space for more photos; be sure to keep contributing. To make way for those steps, we placed the community calendar in a common calendar section with the entertainment calendar in the B section.
For readers thirsting for more conservative commentary in the Opinion section, we just added columnists Jonah Goldberg and Cal Thomas to the lineup to keep our own Butch Mazzuca from being quite so lonely among all those libs and that smart-alecky, libertarian-leaning Richard Carnes.
I am among those critics who believe the Daily has shaded a bit too far left. Our proper place is roughly centrist, with a full range of viewpoints finding a place in our pages. By the way, we’re looking for more local columnists to round out the section. Call or e-mail me if interested.
We’re also working on the best ways to build more in-depth coverage into the Daily’s mix, as we’ve been hearing from readers that this might be our greatest current weakness. You may not realize that we’re plowing the A-level coverage of trends and such into the Vail Trail, or even that the Trail is part of the Vail Daily family now. That’s a problem for us, to have the coverage you miss in the Vail Daily instead in our sister paper whose readership edges Voldemort’s but doesn’t yet have the reach of the Daily.
All that is just the beginning, really.
We do have a lot of work to do, and competition does help spur the pace of improvement. Even if we pretend not to even know their name.
Don Rogers is the editor and associate publisher of the Vail Daily, Vail Trail and Eagle Valley Enterprise. He can be reached at 748-2920 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He welcomes your comments.
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