Don Rogers: Turns out, you can go home
Vail CO, Colorado
You have no idea how sweet that is to hear. Close readers of the Vail Daily know I have returned after nine months away.
That’s nine months as publisher of a sister paper to the Daily just east off the mountain from South Lake Tahoe. Nine months looking primarily after the business in a full-throated, 90-mph-off-a-cliff recession.
Nine months in pinch tight enough I could not hire an ad director, and so I was it. Me, the fellow who hadn’t sold a thing in his life.
We did OK compared to our other papers around the lake and in the Nevada desert. Of course, that had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the sales staff, who weathered the editor as ad director with far more patience than I had a right to ask.
Talk about an education, your painful lessons. Whew. I have so much more respect and admiration now for the publishers and what they do. It’s hard, gut-wrenching work that can leave you breathless, especially when the financial reports come out and you have to answer for the shortfalls.
I was playing out of position, a fish flopping on the bank. Fun? Are you kidding? Rewarding, yes. A rich experience, yes. But as one of the group execs pointed out: “Don, no one is having much fun right now, except maybe some editor in a corner … .”
Hey, wait a minute. That was me.
I had the best job in journalism back in Vail. Some may quibble with that. Not me, though. Fascinating, often quirky community with over nine out of 10 people reading the paper; that’s unheard of out in the “normal” world. Wildland covers 85 percent of the county, a lot of it spectacular. Best ski hills in the country. Great place to raise the kids. Other than the cost of housing, it doesn’t get any better than this. Even with all our problems and flaws, myriad as they may be.
Yeah, I got a chance to develop a whole different perspective, see our community with new eyes while I was “gone.”
Actually I wasn’t really gone. My wife and daughter never left, the house never sold. I visited for long weekends nearly every month. That made things easy in the end.
Calculations were refigured. The company’s checkerboard began moving. Summit County’s editor moved to our paper in Truckee. The editor who had replaced me, quite capably, had not moved his family from Frisco. The Tahoe group needed to go through a belt-tightening. And what was an editor from Vail doing running an ad staff during a recession in Nevada anyway?
So Alex Miller went home to edit his hometown paper, the Summit Daily News. The regional advertising director for the Tahoe-desert group went to The Record-Courier in Gardnerville, Nevada, as publisher. What to do with the incumbent publisher, me?
Ah, back to Vail! Brilliant.
Summit has an editor who went to high school there. Gardnerville has real advertising experience at the helm of their fine paper. And Vail has, well, you have me, grateful for the opportunity to return to where my children grew up, happy to drive my daughter to high school the other day, see my Fort Lewis College son run at CSU’s home cross country meet last weekend. Thrilled to dream in words again instead of numbers.
Nothing against Gardnerville and the Lake Tahoe area. Heavenly, though mostly a cruiser mountain, offers incredible views of the lake. I spent good chunks of my summer weekends running in the Desolation Wilderness. The people are very friendly, and I felt at home with them. The access to Yosemite, the ocean, wine country, San Francisco and all that is tremendous. That region is fantastic, really, and the fun will return to newspapering out there when the economy cycles up again.
But it wasn’t here. It wasn’t home.
And the warm welcome back from so many of you not only surprised me, it made me wonder why I ever thought to leave.
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.